In an inexplicably naïve article Brendan Gauthier at Salon argued that Russia was the only country that seemed to want Donald Trump to be president. But rather than asking why this is so, or wondering what Russia might reasonably do to promote that outcome given that it is so, Gauthier simply repeated a conclusion from a NYT article that referred to unnamed FBI sources saying there was no Russian connection to Trump, at a time when the FBI is obviously seriously partisan. The Times did no more to offer reasoning for its conclusions than he did. Perhaps pride at being scooped by Slate and Mother Jones is the explanation for their openness to claims a careful reporter would want backed up.
What’s in it for Russia?
In fact Russia’s interest in Trump makes plenty of sense and does not involve Trump being a knowing conspirator serving Putin. It simply involves Trump being Trump- an exceptionally vain man who responds to flattery and with a fairly well established record of very poor business judgment. Further, what has already been uncovered makes perfect sense. Here’s why and how. However, it requires taking a Russian point of view.
Russia has a vested interest in weakening the US. We have surrounded the country with military bases, are threatening its Syrian naval foothold on the Mediterranean, and are by far the world’s largest power militarily. Russia has been invaded twice in the 20th century and has plenty of reason not to want that to happen again. And they have their own serious internal troubles. Seriously weakening the US would be in the interests of any conceivable Russian leader.
Igor Panarin, a major Russian political scientist with long and close connections to the government, received considerable attention in 2008 for predicting the imminent break up of the US. He was obviously wrong, but many of the factors he pointed to, especially immigration and ethnic conflict, are issues that deeply concern and divide this society. In addition, Russians are still very interested in his arguments. Any Russians studying his argument quite easily could have deduced it was in the interests of Russia to exacerbate the tensions Panarin identified.
The basic point was that the Panarin’s argument emphasized the US might be vulnerable internally, and if so it would be from rising tensions within its cultural and racial divisions. Even if not strong enough to fulfill Panarin’s predictions, it might be a vulnerable point that could be exacerbated to seriously weaken the country.
The logical policy implication would be to encourage those who might ratchet this tension higher.
A useful idiot
Trump’s entire campaign has focused on exacerbating internal tensions. If I were Putin I would certainly see his efforts as potentially useful to my goals and Trump needn’t be in on it. he simply needed to be encouraged “by one strong leader to another” to pursue his goal to become President. Helping him financially would encourage his self-confidence. This would explain his secret bank connections.
More evidence? As Samantha Bee demonstrated by interviewing them, Russians are being paid to get involved on social media sites, claiming to be Americans, and always favoring Trump. Why would anyone in Russia pay Russians to imitate Americans on US social media, and to do so always taking Trump’s side? They have never done this before so far as we know.
Similarly, all hacks we know of have been of Democrats. The Republicans have not been hacked by the Russians or anyone else. If the Russians for some mysterious reason simply wanted to mess with the election wouldn’t they mess with both sides?
(UPDATE 12/11: We now know the Republicans were also hacked– but apparently nothing was done by the Russians with this information other than, perhaps, blackmail.)
Finally, Trump has spoken in ways to weaken the NATO alliance and also moved the US closer to civil violence than any time since the Civil War. He has said he would not necessarily defend NATO members if they were attacked (which violates the treaty) and has threatened to jail his opponents and curtail the press. Some of his advisers have even suggested killing Clinton. This raises the stakes of politics far beyond what can sustain a democratic country and if pursued, promotes, even guarantees, civil conflict. Such conflict will weaken the US and so give Russia a freer hand.
None of this is proof of course, but it does tie all the evidence together along with a motive and strategy for why and how the Russians would do this. There is no countervailing evidence that I know of. And it does not require anything more of Trump’s motives that what we already know: extreme narcissism, openness to flattery, and not having nearly as much money as he claims to have..
No conspiracy is needed- just astute and ruthless foreign policy by Putin or whoever advises him.
And the FBI?
But why would the FBI play along? It is clearly dominated by people who do not care about institutional rules or the law when they get in the way of attacking the Clintons. Many are conservative Mormons and conservative religious people are inclined to see those they oppose as not just wrong, but evil. Many were Bush appointees at a time when the administration demanded political allegiance, got rid of insufficiently loyal people, and then lost the emails. We have people in the FBI chosen for partisanship, predisposed to dislike the Clintons and willing to bend the rules to hurt them. In such an environment people will be disposed to think the worst of those they dislike and reject similar standards for those who also oppose them. And settled institutions like the FBI will pretty consistently lie to cover up mistakes.
The Russians have good made-in-Russia reasons for supporting Trump, whether he wins or loses. Trump has reasons unconnected to any liking for Russia to cooperate with them. The FBI likely has an institutional blindness to information that is inconvenient, which is common in long established organizations. And some journalists would benefit from asking some obvious questions.