I’m still baffled why my fellow Americans refuse to believe that the Russians hacked the servers of the U.S. political parties because it’s exactly what I would be doing if I were in charge of the Russian program. But electing Donald Trump wasn’t their endgame. When it happened, they were as surprised as most of the other global elites. Getting him elected was probably outside any of their real-world scenarios, although they were clearly planning for the possibility just as they do for every candidate.
The Russian security forces were actually looking to damage Hillary Clinton, whom they believed would be the next President. They knew that getting information off the servers from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) would be orders of magnitude easier than getting it off a server after she became president. After her debacle with her private email server — which clearly contained information sensitive to Clinton herself and also was clearly hacked by the Russians, if not other — Sec. Clinton was going to have incredible security on her communications imposed by Congress and her own security agencies. The time to get information on Clinton is before she became president.
The Intelligence Game isn’t just about state secrets. It’s also about getting information about politicians and then using that information to bend them to your will. You can do this through straight blackmail, like having copies of sexually explicit chats sent to fifteen year olds, or through indirect persuasion by using the information to undermine your target’s political support. This is normal activities of intelligence operations and the U.S. did it all the time, before it started using bombs on drones. The Russians wanted to undermine a Pres. H. Clinton. This intelligence gathering is how you do it.
Russia’s masterful use of propaganda was just another part of undermining the potency of the Clinton presidency. If they could get a sizable minority of the American electorate to believe these tales, they would make it hard for Clinton to be the president of the whole country.
And they really did fear Clinton. She had been on the world stage for two and a half decades. She wasn’t just a national figure. Other international intelligence agencies had been hammering on her while the Russians had fallen apart in the early 1990s. Internal enemies had put together long campaigns against her. She had weathered it all.
She was also a pain in the ass during negotiations. The Russians — like the North Koreans, Chinese and almost every single one of America’s current foes in the international sphere — feared that she would be incredibly hardnosed, a new “Iron Lady” who would resist efforts to expand their power. Clinton had proven herself to be an almost tireless worker. She overprepared for everything, and demanded the same from her staff. Deciding that she knew nothing about the military in the aftermath of 9/11, Clinton became one of the few pols who the fighting Army believed understood how they worked, even if they disagreed with her politics. Clinton was a foe that you should fear, and one who had shown she would not back down from a military confrontation.
They also hacked the RNC servers. Because you always hack the servers of the US political parties. Because that just makes sense and you never know what you’re going to get. But the Russians didn’t see him as a competent opponent even if he wins, and believed that he would be easily manipulated.
What shocked the Russian intelligence services (which are actually headed by Putin himself) is that is all worked so well. They believed that they could manipulate Pres. Obama because the saw him as an arrogant fool who believed that he was smarter than every other person, ever. They now have a man coming into the American presidency is someone that they consider to be a complete idiot who can be manipulated and pulled into whatever way they want. (Whether this will be true will have to be seen; it’s stimply how they view him.) Not only that but he actively denigrates the American intelligence services, demolishing their biggest foe. Americans supporting him are completely behind his support of Russia. He even is actively working against their largest enemy in East, China.
It’s like Christmas all over again!
Whether this works out for Russia or not is not entirely clear. (Something I may cover later.) But as the Russians have only about five years to make sure that their old buffer states like the Baltics and Ukraine are back under their management, they see Trump as the answer to all their prayers.
Image Credit: The Lubyanka building (former KGB headquarters) in Moscow, © A.Savin, Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0.