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Putin’s Cyber and Geopolitical Games/ What Does He Really Want?

On 24th October 2018, Robert Dannenberg, a 24 year veteran of the CIA, captivated WorldDenver members by articulating the notion that Putin is seemingly: meddling within worldwide election processes; extending influence into a number of key countries; whilst increasing undercover activity, violating arms treaties, executed cover-ups, and regrettably sees no reason to stop.


Dannenberg opened by addressing the latest in Russia’s intelligence attacks, the Salisbury nerve-agent attack in the UK. He touched on the lousy coverup by including a rendition of moment the culprits, both agents from Russia’s military intelligence agency, were discovered with a taxi receipt from their journey to the scene of the politically-driven crime. Dannenberg believes this recent spur of attacks to be reminiscent of his time as an undercover agent in Russia, when intelligent agents vehicles drove unimpeded through Moscow. 


There is also reason to believe the Russia intelligence is implicated in a number of cyber attacks and on questioning, Dannenberg affirmed that private entities and businesses must autonomously secure themselves against hacking by military intelligence. It is evident, in this day and age, cyber attacks, social media and fake news seem to have taken a forefront in swaying political outcomes.   

Robert Dannenberg with Karen de Bartolomé founding executive director of WorldDenver.

Moving to events closer to home, Dannenberg analyzed the unfolding relationship between President Trump and President Putin. Though he made no affirmation of a cooperation between Trump’s team and Russia’s government, Dannenberg suggested that Putin’s administration has closely evaluated the psychology of Trump. Knowing his weakness and strengths, which spurred the unprecedented offer of a one on one meeting between the two country leaders. On the offset of the meeting, Putin opened with a message of affinity, claiming “he also understands how it feels to be subject to hostile media.” Media is  a palpable sore point for Trump that leaves him vulnerable to manipulation. 


However, to round up Dannenberg explained that Russia’s influence is not isolated to our own internal affairs, but is clearly evident in a number of perpetuated terms of State leaders around the world. Namely Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who according to CNN, admires Russia’s “sovereign democracy,” favoring an “illiberal democracy” for the future of Hungary. As well as Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, who as The Wall Street Journal writes, “has joined his Russian counterpart in criticizing Western sanctions,” which boils down to a new boycott against US electronic firm Apple


Finally, Dannenberg closed the evening acknowledging Russia’s ongoing testing of a new generation of military missiles that are aimed at replacing the soviet era weaponry. Indeed, according to ABC news in March “Vladimir Putin declared that Russia has tested a new generation of nuclear weapons," a move that Dannenberg suggested overtly violates the INF treaty of 1987, since the missiles could potentially be armed with nuclear warheads. 


In sum, what can be said about Putin’s Cyber and Geopolitical Games: What Does He Really Want? There is no reason to believe that Russia’s President sees the 21st century as battle of exercising soft power, but very much a reliance on cyber terrorism, perpetual governance and weapon expansion. 


Putin is currently in his 4th term, the longest since Stalin, and shows no signs of relinquishing power with no potential successors on the horizon. 

As Dannenberg affirmed, “Putin is in free fall with no incentive to modify his behavior.”


Event sponsors Evan Vall and Roy Vreeland from Sentient Cyber Security. 

A class and Professor from the University of Colorado who attended the event. 

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