In its first 14 months, the Trump administration has earned a reputation for being soft on the Kremlin, even as the extent of the chaos Russia's hackers and trolls have inflicted online becomes increasingly clear. But more recently, the White House's rhetoric towards Russia has begun to shift. And now the executive branch has not only called out the Kremlin for a broad collection of rogue actions online, but finally meted out a concrete financial punishment.
On Thursday, the US Treasury announced new sanctions against a list of Russian citizens, officials and entire agencies, including 19 individuals and five organizations. The list comprises more than a dozen members of the so-called Internet Research Agency, whose broad social-media trolling campaign to influence the 2016 election was outlined in an indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller weeks ago. It also includes several agents of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency believed to be responsible for both the hacking of the election-related targets like the Democratic National Committee and the creation of the malware known as NotPetya, whose outbreak last summer the White House has called the most cost cyberattack in history. And if that weren't enough, the White House also threw in a warning about ongoing Russian probes of the US power grid and other industrial control systems, which the cybersecurity industry has warned about since late summer of last year.
"Hard as it may be to believe, it looks like the White House attitude towards Russia is hardening," says James Lewis, the director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Technology and Public Policy Program. "The Russians have really gone overboard in doing bad things, and there’s a general consensus