The Havana Syndrome Dilemma

America has no way to respond, and Americans don’t know who to trust.

What’s happening: An international media team has released a report suggesting Russia is behind the mysterious “Havana Syndrome” attacks — sudden severe headaches, loss of hearing and motor skills, among other maladies — affecting U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials.

  • Credentials: Christo Grozev, the main investigator, tracked down both the 2019 Salisbury poisoners and the men who tried to kill Alexei Navalny in 2020. After years of hoaxes like the Russian collusion accusations, caution is warranted, but Grozev’s credentialed background inspires confidence.

Why it matters: The U.S. has limited response options if Russia is responsible. Sanctions have already proved ineffective, and a military strike could lead to a world war.

  • Skepticism: Distrust of U.S. intelligence agencies and conflicting information has prompted dismissive responses to the report. 60 Minutes aired the segment as Congress negotiates another aid package for Ukraine, leading skeptics to question the media's motives.

A timeline: The attacks were first revealed in Havana, Cuba in 2016. Since then, over 100 intelligence agents have reported being randomly struck.

Russia connection: Most of the victims were investigating Russia at the time of their attack.

  • Evidence: Grozev discovered that a member of Russia’s top-secret intelligence unit, Unit 29155, was close during one of the attacks and found a Russian document proving 29155 worked on “non-lethal acoustic weapons.”

Intelligence flip-flops: Last year, the U.S. government deemed it unlikely a foreign adversary was responsible, though some agencies had a “low” confidence in that assessment.

  • Staying quiet: The government has reason to deny the attacks. Publicly acknowledging a foreign attack would require a response, likely revealing that America has no good options.