US-Russian relations are at dangerous low-point as US Vice President Joe Biden threatened Russia with a cyber-attack in a televised interview on Friday, while Russian television warned citizens to prepare bomb shelters and check their gas masks.
“We’re sending a message,” Biden warned. “We have the capacity to do it. It will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact.”
The vice-presidential threat comes as a result of claims Russian interfered with the American elections by launching cyber-attacks and hacking more than 100 Democratic Party officials and groups.
“These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process,” the Office of Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security said in a joint statement last Friday. “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”
With a cyber-conflict in place, Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, said in an interview with three journalists at Russia’s U.N. Mission last week that relations between the two super-powers is the worst it has been in over 40 years.
“The general situation I think is pretty bad at this point, probably the worst … since 1973,” he said. “It’s kind of a fundamental lack of respect and lack of in-depth discussions.”
“If the change of administration is going to help, that’s fine,’ Churkin said. “But even if President Barack Obama stayed for another term, which he is barred from doing, ‘we would be pushed to trying to get back to normal in our relations.”
Churkin also accused America of supporting the “coup” that ousted the pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.
America and Russia are also on opposite sides of the conflict in Syria. Syria has committed significant military forces in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad, while the US is supporting anti-Assad rebels.
Russian Itar Tass news site reported that Moscow will not be complacent to CIA cyber attacks against the Russian leadership. A Kremlin official said that “of course we’ll respond – (the attacks) are unacceptable.”
Russian state-owned channel, NTV, has been making public announcements about preparing for a nuclear attack for the past month.
“If it should one day happen, everyone of you should know where the nearest bomb shelter is. It’s best to find out now,” the public service announcement stated. The announcement then instructed people to check their gas masks. It also told the citizens how an emergency wartime government would operate.