How Putin is using Trump to advance Russia's goals

It’s easy to see why Putin views Trump’s ascendancy as a godsend—and why he mobilized his cyberspies and media assets to his aid, according to security analysts. “Trump advocates isolationist policies and an abdication of U.S. leadership in the world. He cares little about promoting democracy and human rights,” continues McFaul. “A U.S. retreat from global affairs fits precisely with Putin’s international interests.” Putin has been relatively reserved in his public support for Trump—calling him “colorful and talented,” which in Russian comes across as faint praise—but Kremlin-sponsored propaganda outlets like Sputnik and RT (formerly Russia Today) have lavishly praised Trump, tweeted #CrookedHillary memes and supported Trump’s assertion that Barack Obama “founded ISIS,” and Russia’s world-class army of state-sponsored hackers has targeted Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party…

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“The target of the hacks wasn’t just Clinton,” Eerik-Niiles Kross, the former head of Estonian intelligence, wrote in a recent essay in Politico. “Nor is Moscow much interested in supporting Trump (willing useful idiot though he may be). What the Russians have in their sights is nothing less than the democratic fabric of American society and the integrity of the system of Western liberal values…. The political warfare of the Cold War is back—in updated form, with meaner, more modern tools, including a vast state media empire in Western languages, hackers, spies, agents, useful idiots, compatriot groups, and hordes of internet trolls.”

In other words, Trump is merely a useful stooge in the Kremlin’s grand design to encourage NATO disunity, U.S. isolationism and the breakup of Europe. In practice, all the effort of Russian-sponsored hackers, think tankers and propaganda channels is unlikely to have much real effect and on balance have probably harmed Trump’s chances of getting into the White House. But the effort is real. As Kross put it, “Russia is effectively using our democracies and our systems of rule of law against us…. America, welcome to the war.”

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