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SECURITY World at risk for cyber attacks

The OBSERVER’s View

If you doubt that too many Americans have become preoccupied with President Donald Trump, either favorably or unfavorably, consider a news report this week. It involved Russian computer hackers and Burisma, the Ukrainian natural gas company.

“A cybersecurity company says Russian military agents have successfully hacked the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the scandal that led to President Donald Trump’s impeachment,” read the first sentence of the Associated Press story on the subject.

Indeed, Burisma and the impeachment saga are linked. But rather than delve into that connection, let us consider why Moscow’s operatives went after the company’s computers. Did it have anything to do with Trump — or was there another purpose?

As the AP and some other news outlets got around to noting, after making the Burisma-impeachment link, the Russians have been hacking European energy company computers for many years — long before Trump took office.

Germany is a primary target of such cyberattacks, which have more to do with Russia’s power over European countries than Trump.

For many years, Russia has been the primary source of gas for many European nations. For example, in 2018, Germany consumed 88.3 billion cubic feet of gas. Imports from Russia accounted for two-thirds of the total.

That has given the Kremlin enormous power over some other nations. Anger Moscow, and the gas flow may be cut off — and, on occasion, has been curtailed to make a point.

Our nation’s still-growing shale gas industry may change the balance of energy power in Europe. U.S. exports could give some nations there more independence from Russia.

It is more likely, then, that Russian hackers were interested in gaining access to Burisma’s computers as part of their campaign to maximize the pressure their gas exports can exert. It may even be that they were setting the stage for a cyberattack meant to interrupt Burisma’s production.

It is unlikely we will ever know the answer. Still, the episode is a lesson not allowing U.S. partisan politics to distract us from what is really going on elsewhere in the world.

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