This post follows up on previous ones and links to a piece in Newsweek written by an expert cyber security research and asks the disturbing question: did Vladimir Putin just install Donald Trump to the presidency? It's a question that one would think more would be investigating, yet most of the media seems blind to the possible significance. America's allies around the world must be mystified by the fact that nothing is being done to further investigate and address this concern. Here are article highlights:
From Iran to Chile, covert CIA-backed operations were responsible for installing leaders friendly to the U.S. in countries around the world in an attempt to gain supremacy over the then-Soviet Union during the Cold War. Russia seems to have taken a page from the U.S. playbook and one upped it, as it may have significantly contributed to the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been vocal in his support of Trump, calling him the “absolute leader in the presidential race” in a December 2015 news conference. Many of Trump’s positions—including his expressions of admiration for Putin and his July 2016 comments that he “would be looking at” recognizing as Russian territory and lifting sanctions—have curried the favor of the Russian leader.
The KGB mastered the use of propaganda during the Cold War, and its successor the FSB has become adept at using these same tactics in the digital realm. Russia regularly makes use of “cyber proxies,” or hacker groups that act with some level of state sponsorship, for its information operations. The proxy group CyberBerkut, for instance, typically claims to have hacked a site and then disseminates the stolen information (generally a mix of fact and fiction that supports the Russian narrative in Ukraine and elsewhere) via a Kremlin-backed Twitter and social media army.
What is clear is that in a close race in which—despite losing in the electoral college, Clinton appears to have at 48 to 47 percent at the time of publication—the information leaked in the emails was a serious disadvantage to Clinton and may have been the deciding factor in putting Trump over the top.
Russia’s role in the election of Trump is significant because, at a time in which the relationship between the U.S. and Russia has been at its most strained since the end of the Cold War over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and other issues, Moscow has helped ensure that the only candidate that will be friendly to Russia has gained office. While this may have the advantage of making the outbreak of outright hostilities between the U.S. and Russia less likely, it also means that the future U.S. president now owes a debt of gratitude to Russia, once the principal adversary of the U.S.
This may make Trump even more conciliatory to a country whose illegal occupation of Crimea has drawn the widespread condemnation of the international community. It also means that Russia, buoyed by its successful use of cyber theft and propaganda in order to install its supporters in key political roles, is likely to further ramp up its use of cyber means to influence elections, both in the U.S. and around the world.
I have zero trust in Mr. Trump and based on interactions with some of his outspoken supporters, they are ready and waiting to become modern day brown shirts who want to quash any opposition or criticism of their new Fuhrer. All I can say about Trump is #NotMyPresident.