Much has been made of Russian hacks into political party databases and their presumed indication that the Kremlin would prefer to deal with President Trump than with President Hillary. This is quite counter-intuitive, which makes all the more puzzling the near universal belief inside the Beltway that this is so.
There are strong reasons to conclude otherwise, summed up simply in all of seven words: Hillary’s actions speak louder than Trump’s words. Thus the Russians very likely fear Trump more than Hillary.
Trump has lavished verbal praise on Putin, but during her tenure as secretary of state America’s top diplomat was a reliable doormat, per “reset” she genuflected repeatedly to Moscow’s geostrategic wishes.
Why then do our intelligence agencies believe the Russians are behind recent highly publicized hacks into political networks? To begin with, there is Russia’s use of dezinformatsia — disinformation via “active measures:
In the Soviet lexicon, the term “active measures” describes a wide array of techniques for influencing events in foreign countries: these include overt and covert propaganda, mass demonstrations, and the use of front organizations, agents of influence, and forgeries. The concept also encompasses paramilitary assistance to insurgents and terrorists, plus the occasional act of sabotage and murder, committed for psychological effect.
Then there is Moscow’s practice of maskirovka — military deception, as described by one Russian general in a BBC interview:
One of the most famous examples is the Battle of Kulikovo Field in 1380, when the young Muscovite, Prince Dmitry Donskoy, and 50,000 Russian warriors fought against 150,000 Tatar-Mongolian soldiers led by Khan Mamai. It was the first time the Slavs were fighting as a united army — Russia against the Golden Horde.
“The fighting was very tough, but we eventually triumphed thanks to one regiment hiding in the forest,” says Vladimirov. “They attacked ferociously and unexpectedly and the ambushed Tatars ran away.”
The BBC noted that the first Russian military convoy to enter the Crimea in 2014 was cast as a humanitarian relief mission. It employed maskirovka’s six elements, one of which is use of disinformation:
That the cyber-conduits allegedly used by Moscow were known to Western intelligence agencies is a clear warning sign that deception is likely. If Moscow wanted to maximize blackmail leverage it would use Hillary’s purloined emails against a sitting president. As Trump never held public office, its value is maximal only if Hillary wins. And if voters think Moscow prefers Trump some would switch to Hillary.
You can bet that Russia — as do several other major adversaries — has every unsecured email Hillary ever sent. Her homebrew server was, said FBI director James Comey, less secure than Gmail. This would include all 1,000 of Hillary’s recovered deleted emails between her and Gen. David Petraeus, during the latter’s tenures as chief of U.S. Central Command and then as director of central intelligence. No yoga class or Chelsea wedding emails have been found. Nearly all traffic between the nation’s top diplomat and top commanders and intelligence chiefs would be at some level classified. Putin could save this information for serial leverage to use against a President Hillary, wrangling added military, diplomatic, economic, or other policy concessions in exchange for Moscow’s continued silence.
In their first debate (Hofstra transcript), Hillary and Trump sparred over cyber-security:
HOLT: Our next segment is called “Securing America.” We want to start with a 21st century war happening every day in this country. Our institutions are under cyber-attack, and our secrets are being stolen. So my question is, who’s behind it? And how do we fight it?
Secretary Clinton, this answer goes to you.
CLINTON: Well, I think cyber security, cyber warfare will be one of the biggest challenges facing the next president, because clearly we’re facing at this point two different kinds of adversaries. There are the independent hacking groups that do it mostly for commercial reasons to try to steal information that they can use to make money.
But increasingly, we are seeing cyber-attacks coming from states, organs of states. The most recent and troubling of these has been Russia. There’s no doubt now that Russia has used cyber-attacks against all kinds of organizations in our country, and I am deeply concerned about this. I know Donald’s very praiseworthy of Vladimir Putin, but Putin is playing a really…
CLINTON: … tough, long game here. And one of the things he’s done is to let loose cyber attackers to hack into government files, to hack into personal files, hack into the Democratic National Committee. And we recently have learned that, you know, that this is one of their preferred methods of trying to wreak havoc and collect information. We need to make it very clear — whether it’s Russia, China, Iran or anybody else — the United States has much greater capacity. And we are not going to sit idly by and permit state actors to go after our information, our private-sector information or our public-sector information.
And we’re going to have to make it clear that we don’t want to use the kinds of tools that we have. We don’t want to engage in a different kind of warfare. But we will defend the citizens of this country.
And the Russians need to understand that. I think they’ve been treating it as almost a probing, how far would we go, how much would we do. And that’s why I was so — I was so shocked when Donald publicly invited Putin to hack into Americans. That is just unacceptable. It’s one of the reasons why 50 national security officials who served in Republican information — in administrations…
Our Lady of the sub-Gmail Homebrew Server surely does not lack for brass, claiming to be “deeply concerned” about cyber-security.
Trump countered with this:
As far as the cyber, I agree to parts of what Secretary Clinton said. We should be better than anybody else, and perhaps we’re not. I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?
TRUMP: You don’t know who broke in to DNC.
But what did we learn with DNC? We learned that Bernie Sanders was taken advantage of by your people, by Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Look what happened to her. But Bernie Sanders was taken advantage of. That’s what we learned.
Now, whether that was Russia, whether that was China, whether it was another country, we don’t know, because the truth is, under President Obama we’ve lost control of things that we used to have control over.
We came in with the Internet, we came up with the Internet, and I think Secretary Clinton and myself would agree very much, when you look at what ISIS is doing with the Internet, they’re beating us at our own game. ISIS.
So we have to get very, very tough on cyber and cyber warfare. It is — it is a huge problem. I have a son. He’s 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers, it’s unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe it’s hardly doable.
But I will say, we are not doing the job we should be doing. But that’s true throughout our whole governmental society. We have so many things that we have to do better, Lester, and certainly cyber is one of them.
Now, consider these additional factors:
First, other things being equal, the Russians prefer a predictable to an unpredictable nuclear-armed adversary. As secretary of state, Hillary was the Tsarina of Russian reset, fully supporting President Obama in this regard. Sanctions imposed by the Bush administration after Russia’s August 2008 invasion of Georgia — profaning an international athletic festival in which Russia and Georgia both participated — were lifted at the start of the Obama years. Hillary has never met an arms agreement she didn’t like, including the missile defense swap engineered in 2009 when administration negotiators dealt directly with Moscow and sprung the accord on our Polish and Romanian allies minutes before it was announced — a sure sign of a bad deal. Hillary supported Obama, after leaving office, in the latter’s ignoring Russian use of chemical weapons in Syria, and his inviting Russia and Iran to take top-drawer slots in Mideast diplomacy. This ended America’s 40-year status as undisputed top geostrategic player in the region. Though Hillary harshly criticized Russia when it invaded Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014, she undercut herself by adding:
So it’s a real nail-biter, right now, but nobody wants to up the rhetoric. Everybody wants to cool it in order to find a diplomatic solution and that’s what we should be trying to do.
“Cool it” is hardly a recipe for reversing Moscow’s serial land grabs and consequent subjugation of formerly free millions.
Second, if the Russians perceive Trump as mentally volatile, they would prefer a plodding, placid president to a take-no-prisoners, mercurial one whose bombastic rhetoric they fear might trigger nuclear miscalculation. The last thing the Russians — or anyone else, for that matter — want in any American president is someone they fear is mentally unstable. Trump’s careless talk about reluctantly accepting nuclear proliferation and his penchant for bombast cannot be comforting to Moscow.
Third, a doormat president hard-wired into her foreign policy positions is a safer bet than a president whose views are not set into concrete. The latter might be altered under pressure of events and/or per advice from trusted senior advisers. Trump’s experience to date with Putin has been that of a businessman seeking to do business inside Russia — the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. There was then no reason for Putin to be nasty to Trump, as every major venture in Russia lines Vlad’s pockets. A President Trump would quickly see Putin’s glad-hand treatment replaced by wily adversary diplomacy. We know from her record of appeasement that Hillary will do nothing to stop Putin. Trump might, when Vlad the Glad morphs into Vlad the Bad, decide to revise his views, and change policy accordingly. There is at least a chance he would change course. Does anyone think Trump would help Putin’s pals gain control over 20 percent of our uranium supply, as Hillary did while secretary of state, in one of the Clinton Foundation’s play-for-play deals?
Fourth, a globalist is less likely to confront a major adversary than a nationalist. Hillary, as a globalist, places much faith in international institutions like the UN, that are utterly useless in stopping determined bad actors like Russia. Trump, a nationalist, is more likely to confront Russian aggression, despite his isolationist preference, if he feels America’s fundamental interests are at stake.
Bottom Line. Bet the farm that Vladimir Putin prefers a compromised Hillary to an unpredictable Trump, as America’s next president.
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