The Russian government must be made to “feel the pain” for its cyber attacks against Democrats’ email systems prior to the election, former UN Amb. John Bolton said on Friday.
Appearing on “Fox & Friends,” Bolton, who is reportedly being considered for a spot in the Donald Trump administration, said that the sanctions package that the Obama administration announced against Russia on Thursday is insufficient to deter future Russian intrusions.
“The Russians have walked all over the Obama administration for eight years. It’s really been a pathetic performance,” said Bolton, who served in the George W. Bush administration.
The White House announced on Thursday that it was slapping sanctions on four officials with Russia’s GRU intelligence services bureau and on three companies that contracted with the Russian government to carry out cyber attacks in the U.S. The administration is also forcing 35 Russian officials residing in the U.S. to leave the country within the next couple of days.
The Obama administration has insisted that it has enough evidence to link the Russian government to cyber attacks against the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security released a summary of that evidence on Thursday and plans to produce a more detailed report in coming weeks. Many Trump supporters have questioned the administration’s claims, saying that not enough evidence has been produced to determine if Russia was behind the hacks.
Bolton suggested on Friday that Obama’s measures are a political ploy intended “to box the Trump administration in.”
“I think it will fail,” said Bolton, who noted that Trump can easily reverse Obama’s executive order instituting the sanctions.
Bolton also offered a much stronger condemnation of Russia’s cyber warfare than has Trump. The president-elect issued a statement after Obama announced sanctions saying that “it’s time for out country to move on to bigger and better things.”
Trump has been accused of being too cozy with Russia’s president Vladimir Putin. The real estate billionaire has said that he believes that efforts to pin the cyber attacks on Russia are meant to delegitimize his Election Day victory.
But Bolton said that politics should be cast aside in the debate over the hacks.
“If even a piece of what is alleged about this Russian activity is true, it is utterly unacceptable,” he told “Fox & Friends.”
“It is an attack on our constitutional system. It is not enough to say, and people should be very careful about this, to say, well, it didn’t actually have an impact on the election.”
He also responded to arguments that Russia’s efforts had no impact on the Election Day outcome. While many Democrats believe that Russia’s cyber attacks tipped the vote to Trump, Republicans have said that the releases of DNC and Clinton campaign emails had a minimal effect on voters.
But “the fact that Russian efforts were incompetent or insufficient shouldn’t make us feel better,” Bolton argued.
“If Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor and all of its bombs and torpedoes had missed, no Americans killed, no ships sunk, would we have said no harm, no foul?” he continued. “No, it’s the effort that they made, if this is accurate, that should trouble us. Not the fact that it failed.”
Asked what the U.S. should do to deter Russia from waging widespread cyber attacks, Bolton said that the government must build up its cyber offensive and defensive capabilities.
“How do you do that? In this case, you make the Russians feel the pain,” he said.
“If you make them feel pain and others feel pain, then the possibility of deterring future conduct like this increases. That’s what we need to do.”