Putin wants to do more than to install Trump as US president: he wants to destroy the West

Putin on Trump's victory: "In no way did we influence the elections in the USA." (Image: Sergey Elkin / Svoboda)

Putin on Trump's victory: "In no way did we influence the elections in the USA." (Image: Sergey Elkin / Svoboda) 

Analysis & Opinion, Politics

As evidence mounts that Vladimir Putin used a variety of covert means to promote the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, it is critically important to remember that that outcome is only part of the Kremlin leader’s agenda, one that calls for so weakening Western countries that they can’t stand up to him.

Many people assume that Putin wants to hide the role the Russian security services played in promoting Trump, but that is wrong. Since at least the times of the Cheka’s “Trust” operation in the early 1920s, Moscow repeatedly has sought not only to gain by its machinations but also planned to gain by their exposure at a time and place of the Kremlin’s choosing.

Such a time is now because Putin never viewed Trump’s election as an end in itself but rather as part of a broader effort to subvert public confidence in elections and free societies by suggesting that in the new information environment, outside powers like Russia can interfere with impunity.

Indeed, from Putin’s perspective, the best possible outcome is that Trump does take office but with an increasing number of Americans convinced that at least in part the Republican’s victory was the result of Russian actions. If a large enough group of Americans do become convinced of that, then confidence in democratic procedures will decline.

But even more than that, the American system – like other Western countries where Russian covert activities are ongoing – will be divided and weakened if not fatally then at least for a time; and that outcome will give Putin the chance to continue his policy of promoting chaos and disorder, the only environments in which his objectively weak country can win out.

There are no easy answers as to what Americans and others concerned with democracy and freedom should do, especially since the more people talk about Russian meddling, the greater Putin’s victory is likely to be. But there are at least three lessons from the past that may prove useful.

First, it is critically important to understand just what Putin, a not-so-former KGB officer, is about and why he plans for “failures” as well as successes in his covert operations. Most Western intelligence services plan only for success as they define it, but Russian intel (FSB/ SVR/ GRU) always plan for failures.

That means that those tracking what Putin’s agents have done need to be very careful to document everything they have done and are doing, to do so with a minimum of hyperbole and a maximum of legal precision, documenting everything in ways that do not permit denial by the fair-minded much as the WADA has done with Moscow’s athletic doping policy.

Second, the West must avoid becoming like Russia in response to Putin’s actions. Listing Russian news outlets as foreign agents, as some are proposing, is exactly what the Kremlin leader wants: if the West does it, in Putin’s calculations, then Russia can; and the fundamental differences between his Russia and Western democracies are reduced in the eyes of many.

Democratic countries, including the United States, are stronger than Russia not because they have more weapons or larger economies but because their basic values ultimately win out over those who seek to enslave people. It is always tempting to go for a quick fix, but the best response to such threats is to avoid falling into the trap those making them have laid.

And third, it is absolutely essential that Americans and other Western nations recognize that what Putin is doing is an existential threat to the West. All too many in the US and Europe have foolishly convinced themselves that after the end of communism, the disintegration of the USSR, and the decline of the Russian economy that Moscow cannot play that role.

But that assumption is also false: weaker powers often pose threats to stronger ones at least for a time, not only because they feel unconstrained by the rules of the game the stronger ones have sought to put in place, but because the stronger and democratic ones don’t want to believe until very late in the game what they are up against.

The history of the last century should have been enough to disabuse people of their misconceptions on these points. Unfortunately, what is going on now shows that many have a lot to learn and that Putin and his agents are counting on that to pursue victories they do not deserve and must not be allowed to claim.


Related:

 

Edited by: A. N.

Tags: , , , , ,

  • Terry Washington

    He won’t succeed- any more than Soviet leaders from Lenin to Gorbachev did!

  • Randolph Carter

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/11/rex-tillerson-secretary-of-state-trump-russia-putin

    “While the other leading candidates for the job hold largely traditional and adversarial views on Russia, the outgoing chief executive of Exxon Mobil has a history of close business ties to Putin, who bestowed the Order of Friendship on Tillerson in 2013.

    The Wall Street Journal reported: “Friends and associates said few US citizens are closer to Mr Putin than Mr Tillerson.”

    The 64-year-old Texas oilman spent much of his career working on Russian deals, including a 2011 agreement giving Exxon Mobil access to the huge resources under the Russian Arctic in return for giving the giant state-owned Russian oil company, OAO Rosneft, the opportunity to invest in Exxon Mobil’s operations overseas.

    Tillerson is also friends with the head of Rosneft, Igor Sechin, a former interpreter who worked as chief of staff for Putin when he was deputy mayor in St Petersburg in the mid-1990s. Sechin, sometimes described as the second-most-powerful man in Russia, is now under US sanctions. He has said that one of his ambitions is to “ride the roads in the United States on motorcycles with Tillerson”.

    The 2011 Exxon-Rosneft agreement was frozen when sanctions were imposed on Russia in 2014, following the annexation of Crimea and covert military intervention in eastern Ukraine. Exxon Mobil estimated the sanctions cost it $1bn and Tillerson has argued strenuously for the measures to be lifted.”

    Lenin and Gorbachev didn’t live in a country where 95% of the assets were owned by 5% of the people. Undoubtedly, there were some wealthy people who could manipulate the government but our country is much more divided now. Putin only needs to concentrate on a few key people, not the whole USA. Also, they did not have the sophisticated hardware and hackers that are available now. Investigations are going on as to whether Russian hackers acted to assure a Trump victory. If so, Putin’s first goal will be to lift the sanctions on Russia and restore their economy. Trump is a loose cannon; he may continue USA support of Ukraine or he may lift the sanctions in order to have an ally to fight ISIS. But I’ll bet the farm on what Tillerson’s recommendation will be.

    • Czech Mate

      yes a very disturbing choice for the post by Mr Trumpovitch. On the other hand, If Putler thinks that US operates like his ruSSia or that it can under Trump, he’s in for a nasty surprise.

      • Randolph Carter

        What particular differences do you see between the US and Putinstan that could give the dwarf problems? We have our share of wealthy people who try to influence the government but they’re not always in favor of the current person(s) in power. In Putinstan, they line up behind him like good little puppets and are given monopolies with him in the background pulling the strings.

        • Czech Mate

          yes pretty much as you write, and even if Putler were to think Donnie boy “will” sort em out” this simply won’t happen as that is democracy in action standing firm against any subversion.

  • zorbatheturk

    I am glad that RuSSians always prepare for failure. Because that is what they are: a failed race of crossbred baboons with no future, shitizens (not citizens) of a failed state which clings to Soviet pretensions of importance. The so-called RuSSian Federation is no such thing, it is a Moskal pseudo-empire where every decision is made by Czar Putin. This little rodent was created by hybridizing DNA from one of Himmler’s toenail clippings with that of a drunken RuSSian toilet attendant who worshipped Stalin the Satan.

    And this clown thinks he can compete with the West? What a laff.

    • Fortranz

      Pulling no punches I see..lol

      What a laff.

      He’s a good liar too don’t you think?

      • zorbatheturk

        KGB agents are A1 liars.