Russia now openly planning to try to help elect Trump? Not so fast

Russia now openly planning to try to help elect Trump? Not so fast
AP Photo/Chris Seward

We’re currently dealing with both economic warfare and military warfare when it comes to the situation involving Russia and Ukraine. But there is clearly also some propaganda warfare going on. We’re seeing reports from both the west and the Russian side that appear to be designed to stir the pot, potentially driving a wedge between western allies. The latest item was highlighted this week at the Daily Beast. Citing both anonymous intelligence sources and Russian state media personalities, it’s being suggested that Putin’s “revenge” on America for our opposition to the invasion will be “another” round of attempted interference in American elections. And that immediately raises the specter of Russia purportedly wanting to see Donald Trump elected again.

As Russia’s war of aggression continues to ravage its neighbor, the Kremlin’s propaganda apparatus has been more blatant than ever before in outlining the country’s goals for its biggest nemesis: the U.S.

Last week, American intelligence officials reportedly assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin may use the Biden administration’s support for Ukraine as a pretext to order a new campaign to interfere in U.S. elections. Though AP reported that “it is not yet clear which candidates Russia might try to promote or what methods it might use,” Russian state media seem to be in agreement that former U.S. President Donald Trump remains Moscow’s candidate of choice.

Not for nothing, but some of this reported information seems like a bit of a stretch to say the least. I will first say that I have no doubt that Putin would like to be able to influence U.S. elections in a way that produces more favorable results for his country. I also would not at all put it past him to use cyberattacks, hacking, and fake disinformation resources online to try to make that happen. How much real-world effect such propaganda efforts may have is impossible to measure, but it would certainly be in character for the Kremlin.

With all of that said, however, something about this story seems a bit odd. The anonymous intelligence sources citing this information seemed to be rather light on specifics. That may be understandable since they never want to give hints about sources and methods, but they really didn’t announce much more than a generic warning about Russian influence peddling. Next, we might consider the reports coming from the Russian side. These “plans” to purportedly “again help our partner Trump to become president” (that’s a direct quote) came from a Russian state media television and news host named Evgeny Popov.

Seriously? If you have a top-secret plan to influence America’s elections and interfere with the electoral process, would your first move be to announce it on television and social media? Seems like a rather self-defeating strategy to me. In fact, it borders on being a bit of farcical insanity.

I’ll offer up an alternate explanation for all of this. Putin’s main objective at all times is to try to create divisive rifts among his adversaries, whether that be by driving wedges between NATO leaders or spreading internal conflict in other countries. Putin clearly is aware that the whole meme about “Russia helping elect Trump” was massively divisive inside of the United States, pitting liberals and conservatives against each other, even after the Steele dossier was proven to be a hoax. Making a public statement like that, particularly using the word “again,” to suggest they had done it before, looks like an intentional effort to roll a grenade into the American political debate ahead of the midterms.

I would also revisit one question that’s been bugging me for a few years now. When did it become an assumption that Russia would have a vested interest in seeing Trump be elected either in 2016 or 2024? Think about the 2016 election for a moment. Putin had two choices. One was the MAGA guy who wanted to rebuild America’s military and strengthen our position as a global leader. The other was the person from the Obama/Biden administration who was sent over to see Putin with a “reset” button while reporting to the White House team that told Romney “the 80’s called” and downplayed any threat from Russia. If you were Vladimir Putin, who would you have been rooting for?

Just some food for thought. This sounds less like actual plans to attack America’s elections and more like increasingly desperate propaganda designed to distract us from the situation in Ukraine.

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Jazz Shaw 10:01 PM on June 07, 2023