Streetwise Professor

July 18, 2013

Vladimir Putin Is Not an Altruist

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 2:57 pm

Putin has put a condition that Snowden must meet to stay in Russia: he must stop making disclosures that damage “our American partners.”  Putin even confesses astonishment that such words came from his mouth.

Everything about this is feigned, including the astonishment. Putin is not an altruist acting with US interests in mind.

There is a perfectly Machiavellian explanation for this desire to shut down Snowden’s disclosures.  Despite Snowden’s Maxwell Smart-like claim that he is immune to torture, and has given nothing to the Russians, it is almost certain that he has given them everything.  Indeed, his statements were almost certainly put into his mouth by the Russians who have him under complete control.  This information is more valuable, to the extent that the NSA does not know what the Russians have learned.  If NSA knows what has been compromised, it can focus its containment efforts and implement targeted fixes.  The less certain it is, the more diffuse and indiscriminate its efforts must be-and hence the less effective its efforts will be.

Further public disclosures, though embarrassing to the NSA and the US, will provide information about what Snowden accessed and stole.  Even a revelation about a piece of information held in a particular location will alert NSA that other information in that location has been compromised. Yes, forensics will help it track those things down, but not perfectly.  Every piece of information NSA has about what has been compromised is extraordinarily valuable.  Meaning that Putin and the FSB have every incentive to keep that information to themselves.  Meaning that further public revelations harm Putin.

Don’t let Putin fool you folks. He does not have US interests in mind.  To the contrary.  Knowledge is power.  He knows what he has: NSA doesn’t know, for sure.  Therefore, public disclosures about NSA operations reduce Putin’s power.  Which gives him an extremely strong motive to use his control of Snowden to reduce the flow of Snowden’s information from Greenwald, Poitras, etc.

I repeat: Putin is not altruistic to the US, and operates according to a zero sum mindset in which anything that helps the US hurts Russia.  If he is demanding Snowden’s leaks stop, it is precisely because this helps Russia, and hurts the US.

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  1. Right on. How cold it be otherwise? Rooshia is a Mafia state, with ~ 1 Billion USD daily in petroshish. Professor, How many people would you liquidate for your cut of 1,000 millions per day?

    Comment by t c phillips — July 18, 2013 @ 5:05 pm

  2. The reasoning appears bullet-proof, but the conclusion in the title is shocking nevertheless.

    Comment by Ivan — July 19, 2013 @ 5:05 am

  3. One of Putin’s interests is to have a diversion he can trot out at any given time to divert attention away from the ongoing coup taking place in Russia. The prior comments on Felix’s playbook show that he is a true Bolshevik, at least in terms of methodology.

    After all what is Leninism but a kind of gangsters’ guide to seizing power, once the theoretical eco and class gibberish is put aside?

    Comment by Sotos — July 19, 2013 @ 9:06 am

  4. By now, I would think the NSA has a pretty good idea of what Snowden took.

    Comment by Phil Rothman — July 19, 2013 @ 9:32 pm

  5. @Phil-According to reports, the damage assessment is ongoing. Moreover, this is information, not the family silver. If the latter is taken, you’ll know. If the former is taken, you don’t necessarily know for sure, because the original information remains. They might be able to identify the material Snowden accessed. But maybe not, given that he would have tried to hide his tracks, meaning that there is a false negatives problem. Moreover, he may have accessed some information that he did not take, meaning that there is a false positives problem. Both present serious difficulties, and the FSB’s possession of exactly what Snowden took gives them a decided advantage over NSA.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 20, 2013 @ 12:52 pm

  6. @Craig: Good points.

    Comment by Phil Rothman — July 21, 2013 @ 11:39 am

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