Saturday, March 04, 2017

Vladimir Putin's Insidious Agenda


A post from yesterday looked at what the CIA and FBI knew about Donald Trump's ties to Russia before the 2016 presidential election and paints a frightening picture.  But the picture is not complete unless one looks at the history and agenda of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin who Trump seemingly wants to emulate in his own rule over America.  That a figure like Putin would be a role model for an American president is both bizarre and frightening.  Worse yet, Trump seems to be following Putin's game plan for attacking the media and has displayed a similar contempt for the truth.  If Trump's lips are moving, he's either lying or boasting about himself.  Meanwhile, rather than open their eyes, far too many Republicans are simply whining that the majority of Americans who did not vote for Trump need to "get over" the fact that they lost the 2016 presidential election.  A very lengthy piece in The Atlantic looks at Putin's rise to power and the dictatorial rule that Trump is so enamored with.  The article ends with a hope that Trump will disavow Putin.  Candidly, I am not optimistic.  I suspect that Putin not only has blackmail information on Trump and his regime - e.g., evidence of collusion with the hack of the DNC or other things - but that Trump's real estate empire is too dependent on Russian money to risk alienation of Putin.  The only real solution is the removal of Trump from office.  The sooner the better. Here are article excerpts:
Each year on December 20, the Russian intelligence community pays homage to its enduring guardianship of the Motherland. It was on this date in 1917, six weeks after the Bolshevik Revolution, that Vladimir Lenin established the Cheka, an acronym for “Emergency Commission.” Over the ensuing decades, the commission’s nomenclature and organization chart mutated: It became the OGPU from 1923 to 1934, the NKVD until the early 1950s, and then the KGB for nearly 40 years. After the collapse of the USSR, the sprawling institution was split into separate foreign and domestic agencies. Operatives of both are still called chekists, and they share Lenin’s original purpose: countering Russia’s enemies at home and abroad.
President Vladimir Putin was a KGB officer for 15 years leading up to the fall of the Soviet Union, and the director of domestic intelligence in the late 1990s during his meteoric rise to power. He regularly throws a gala at the Kremlin on December 20 to extol the “sacred mission” of the state security services, recall their past heroes, and highlight their latest exploits. For the last 22 years, Chekist’s Day has been an official holiday in Russia.
Last December, Putin must have been in particularly ebullient sprits. Over the course of 2016, he oversaw the boldest, most consequential covert operation against Russia’s principal ideological and geopolitical foe for much of the last century, breaching the firewall of American democracy and influencing a high-stakes presidential election. Putin seemed to have made a big bet and come away with a trifecta: He could congratulate himself for settling old scores with a traditional foe, relish the prospect of a Russia-friendly counterpart in the White House, and let the ripple effect of the U.S. election further confound and further unsettle the democracies in a wobbly Europe.  
Ever since Lenin dispatched the first Soviet undercover agent across the Atlantic in 1921, Kremlin leaders have sought, with some success, to undermine the United States. . . . . . But most of these efforts failed, and all of them pale next to Russia’s attempts to hack both major U.S. political parties, and subsequent leak of a trove of documents in an effort to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Two weeks before Donald Trump’s inauguration, U.S. intelligence agencies released a public report describing the Russian operation as a Putin-ordered influence campaign intended “to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.” Putin’s government, the intelligence community concluded, “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”
Putin saw Clinton as a serial regime-changer, eager to foment yet another “color revolution” in Russia like those in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, three former Soviet republics. He made no secret of this conviction. . . . .  Aside from his anyone-but-Clinton mindset, Putin had additional reasons to boost her opponent: Candidate Trump’s admiration for Putin; his declared preference for nationalism over globalism; his apparent intention to revert to a world order based on great-power spheres of influence; his skepticism toward the European Union (he has urged members to follow Britain to the exit); and his denigration of NATO as “obsolete.”
Putin has managed to rewrite history for much of Russia’s citizenry and for himself, in order to justify a revanchist foreign policy. Therefore, he had every reason to cast his own vote in the U.S. election and, on November 8, celebrate the result. U.S. intercepts of Russian communications indicate that top officials in Moscow did not wait until Chekist’s day to pop the champagne bottles when they heard the final returns. They toasted Trump’s victory—and their own.
The vast damage to American interests wrought by Putin is likely to deepen for years to come. It is bad for Trump, since the ongoing revelations of a foreign adversary’s contamination of an American election undermines the outcome’s validity. This would be the case however Trump handled the matter, but he has exacerbated the qualms and controversy. His fury over leaks from U.S. intelligence agencies and investigative stories by the mainstream American media created the impression that he is shooting the messengers in order to divert attention from the core message that Russia successfully attacked America’s democracy, tarnished its reputation worldwide, and cast a pall over its president’s legitimacy. Trump has seemed more outraged at his own government than Putin’s,
While Trump’s team seems to have sent a welcome signal to Moscow, the president himself declared a vendetta against his own agencies. The White House put out the word that a billionaire financier and political ally of Trump’s, Stephen Feinberg, would conduct a broad review of the U.S. intelligence community. The episode seemed like punishment of the agencies for gathering information on contacts between the president’s campaign aides and Russian agents over the last year and for leaking them. In February, when details of an ongoing FBI probe into that embarrassing and potentially criminal matter appeared in the press, Trump’s White House leaned on the bureau to discredit them. The FBI refused.
Meanwhile, longstanding allies and friends of the United States are appalled by his constant effort to change the subject whenever the Russian mega-hack comes up. While the president’s national-security team has sought to reassure America’s allies around the world, many leaders, especially in Europe, are concerned that he remains in thrall to Putin who, in some cases, continues to meddle in their own elections.
Two weeks ago, his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov put Putin’s goal in stark, smug terms: The world is on the brink of a “post-West” order, he said. The unmistakable implication is that the locus of global power will move eastward, reinforcing the Kremlin’s ability to design and enforce an order that suits its national and nationalistic interests.
Given how Russia has manifested those interests—perpetuating the carnage of Syria’s civil war, annexing Crimea and virtually occupying the Donbass region of Ukraine, keeping ethnic conflicts simmering in the Caucasus, attempting to overthrow a pro-Western government in Montenegro, engaging in constant military incursions, cyberattacks, provocations, and bullying in the Baltics—we have a clear idea of what sort of “order” Putin has in mind.
Putin’s scheme to affect the 2016 election was, almost certainly, intended to remain a secret. In that regard, it was a failure. Its exposure now threatens to overwhelm the American political leader who was supposed to be the beneficiary of the Russian operation.  
Trump now has less support and political capital to forge ahead with his much-ballyhooed project to improve White House-Kremlin relations in ways that would please Putin and further unsettle Russia’s neighbors. 
Trump has further hobbled himself by waging his two-front feud with the intelligence community and the Fourth Estate. The longer he keeps this up, the more they will defend their independence and fight back with facts that the president has ignored or belittled. ­­And the more it will look like the president is hiding something.
If these factors—congressional and constituent pressure, along with advice from within the president’s inner circle—converge, it is possible that when the centenary Chekist’s Day rolls around next December, the atmosphere may be more sober than the celebration of three months ago. Russia’s chekist-in-chief may come to recognize that his breathtaking effort to manipulate the U.S. election has generated a salutary backlash in America, the new administration toward a healthy posture of continuity with its predecessors. If President Trump embraces that trend, Putin’s victory could turn out to be a Pyrrhic one.
Again, do not hold your breath waiting for Trump to change course.  He is little better than a Russian agent regardless of his bloviating about "making America great again." He and his coquetry of propagandists and henchmen are the real threat to America and democracy in this country. 

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