President Biden is on a mission to try yet another “reset” with Russia. He’s reached out to President Vladimir Putin for a summit that took place in Geneva in June, canceled the sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and refused to blame the Russian state for the devastating cyberattacks on our food and gasoline reserves, fingering “Russia-based” criminal hackers instead. But few attacks of any kind emanate from Russia without the Kremlin’s permission.
Putin is ignoring Biden’s overtures and instead escalating a low-grade warfare against America. He seems to even be inflicting brain damage on some of our fellow Americans.
Since Biden assumed office in January, more than twenty US diplomats stationed in Vienna, Austria — the hotbed of spy operational activities — have reported unexplained health issues. The debilitating symptoms, including dizziness, vertigo, nausea, severe headaches, sudden sensation of heat, cognitive difficulties and even possibly permanent brain damage — are consistent with what has been dubbed “Havana syndrome.” The difficult-to-diagnose ailment first struck US officials in 2016 in the Cuban capital, and since then, the victim list has grown to approximately 130 intelligence officers, military personnel and other American officials, mostly stationed overseas.
The CIA has mounted a special task force, under the leadership of a veteran undercover officer who successfully hunted down Osama bin Laden, to investigate what CIA Director William Burns privately called “attacks” and identify the culprit. The suspected cause of the disabling illness, according to the US National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, is “directed, pulsed radio frequency (RF) energy,” though it could also be multifrequency sonic or acoustic weapons. Moscow is easily the lead suspect — and, given the harm done to Americans, Biden should toughen his approach to Russia unless evidence emerges that someone else committed this heinous act.
Which is unlikely. Here is why Russia almost certainly did it.
Russia has the capability, doctrine and intent to use nonlethal weapons against US personnel and physical assets. For decades, the Russians have been researching and developing what they call “weapons based on new physical principles,” to degrade, damage, disrupt or destroy infrastructure and equipment, such as satellites, computers and other devices, in preparation for war with a technologically superior adversary such as the United States. Russia’s development of directed energy weapons (DEW) is highly advanced. Members of congressional intelligence committees were briefed in April on Russia’s suspected targeting of US military officers in Syria with directed energy weapons.
Using “nonlethal weapons” that can produce debilitating but not deadly effects, like the one American officials experienced in Vienna, is consistent with the Russian doctrine. Moscow has declared the United States its primary security threat.
During the Cold War, Russia’s predecessor, the Soviet Union, routinely used nonlethal weapons against American government personnel. From 1953 to 1976, the Soviets were bombarding the US Embassy in Moscow with low-level microwave bursts. The intent was not in that case to harm Americans but to steal secrets by intercepting US communications that took place in the embassy. The Soviets used microwaves to activate a microphone they had concealed in the Great Seal of the United States gifted to a US ambassador. The spy “bug” hung over the ambassador’s desk, picking up classified conversations.
The official Russian government press acknowledges the existence of nonlethal means to incapacitate the enemy by “blinding” or “boiling” them, literally heating up their bodies. The Russian military justifies this approach as an effective option to achieve “objectives with minimal losses and destruction.”
To unsettle and frustrate American intelligence officers stationed in Russia during the first Obama administration, the Kremlin’s spies broke into their homes, poisoned their pets and left their homes in disarray — and even deposited “gifts” in unflushed toilets.
A judo master and “former” spy operative, Putin believes in keeping the adversary off balance at all times. Given that he has likely escalated the fight with the United States by possibly giving American officials permanent brain injury, it is high time for Biden to accept a harsh reality: Putin is not looking for a “reset.” Rather, he is looking to “knock the adversary’s teeth out,” as he said in May.
Biden must stop playing footsie with the Russian master spy and suspend relations with Russia until US investigators rule out Moscow as the source of the Havana syndrome attacks. Until then, a “reset” or any other overtures to the Kremlin must be off the table.