Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed yesterday that he has decided to withdraw some troops from the border with Ukraine and is prepared to re-enter security negotiations with NATO and the US. This is the first sign of de-escalation since Russia began its mobilization near Ukraine last year, but Mr. Putin also made it clear that the threat is not over.
A Russian spokesman said troops had begun loading up their gear to return to their bases, but he gave few specifics. As CNN notes, this could be a rotation with fresh troops coming in or a gradual drawdown after military exercises. If a crisis that appeared to be escalating just yesterday is in fact making progress toward renewed negotiations, this is obviously good news.
President Biden addressed the crisis yesterday afternoon, stating, “We should give diplomacy every chance to succeed, and I believe there are real ways to address our respective security concerns.” He emphasized that the US and its allies are not a threat to Russia.
However, the reverse is not the case.
Why the US is among “the most vulnerable countries”
Dr. Amy Zegart is the author of Spies, Lies, and Algorithms: The History and Future of American Intelligence. A senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, she discussed her book recently with Jake Harrington of the Center for Strategic & International Studies.
In their conversation, Dr. Zegart noted that technologies such as cellphones, the internet, Artificial Intelligence, and commercial satellites are profoundly changing intelligence. This comes at a time when the US is profoundly at risk from cyberwarfare.
She explained this paradoxical fact: “In cyberspace, the most powerful countries, including the United States, are simultaneously the most vulnerable countries because we are so digitally connected. And that’s especially true of democracies because our freedom of speech enables the possibility of deception at scale. And, of course, the good neighborhoods and the bad neighborhoods in cyberspace are all connected, as we find out when our information is stolen or hacked.”
She added that most cyberattacks are detected after the fact and that, since there are more people with cellphones than with running water, the sheer amount of data poses a tremendous challenge for the American intelligence community.
Why would Russian cyberattacks target the US?
Yesterday we discussed what a Russian invasion would mean for Ukraine, with the promise that today we would consider what such an invasion would mean for the US. CNN reports that such an invasion would “trigger one of the worst and most dangerous national security crises since the Cold War.”
It could crush democratic principles and embolden China to take action against the democratic island of Taiwan. It would also cause oil prices to shoot up, stocks to tumble, and raise charges of appeasement against the Biden administration if Russia ignores his warnings and marches into Ukraine.
But another threat that relates directly to American citizens is Russia’s advanced cyberwarfare capacities. Ukraine’s information center said yesterday that the country’s ministry of defense and at least two banks had already come under cyberattack, shutting down websites and access to information and accounts. America’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has also issued a “Shields Up” alert for US organizations, warning that they could face Russian cyberattacks in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis.
The agency stated: “The Russian government understands that disabling or destroying critical infrastructure—including power and communications—can augment pressure on a country’s government, military, and population.” The Department of Homeland Security added its warning last month: “We assess that Russia would consider initiating a cyberattack against the Homeland if it perceived [that] a US or NATO response to a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine threatened its long-term national security.”
CISA Director Jen Easterly tweeted last Saturday, “Every organization in the US is at risk from cyber threats that can disrupt essential services.”
One way to “live peaceably with all”
Clearly, what happens in Ukraine will not stay in Ukraine. Even if this were not the case, it would be imperative that Christians pray fervently for peace. Jesus taught us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). Paul added: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). A powerful way to obey their directives is to pray for peace and then answer our prayers as God directs.
The peace you pray for abroad affects you at home. The assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, led to World War I, a conflict in which my grandfather served and more than 116,000 Americans died. The bombing of Pearl Harbor led to America’s involvement in World War II, a conflict in which my father served and more than 400,000 Americans died.
But there’s another reason to pray fervently for peace amid conflict: Christians uniquely believe that the One to whom we pray loves each of us as if there were only one of us (to paraphrase St. Augustine).
Unlike transactional religions whose gods must be appeased and bribed, God’s Son died for us “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8) and “dead in our trespasses” (Ephesians 2:5). As Jesus noted, our Father “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).
As a result, Christians are called to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (v. 44) in the knowledge that our Father loves them as much as he loves us. Your “enemies” may be in Russia or they may be in your own home, but you are called to love them by praying for them today.
When we pray and love with such unconditional grace, we clearly stand out in a broken culture motivated by self-interest and revenge. In fact, Jesus promised that in this way, the world will know that we are “sons of your Father who is in heaven” (v. 45).
Who in the world will know that you are a child of God today?