During the Cold War it was perfectly clear the Russians were the bad guys. Only twisted-brain lefties like Noam Chomsky thought we were. When the USSR fell in 1991, there was a window when it looked like Russia would come in from the cold. But then ex-KGB agent Putin took over.
He has mounted a gigantic propaganda offensive. Unlike Soviet Communists, Putin has no pretensions of leading a worldwide ideological movement. Instead, it’s all about strengthening and expanding his raw power. Thus the cynical effort to delegitimize democracy and liberal Western culture as decadent and corrupt in contrast to a Russia that’s strong and moral. Putin knows the USSR fell partly because its inhabitants realized its system stank compared to ours. That’s what he’s trying to combat.
And not only are Russians falling for it – many in the West also buy the notion that there’s something more admirable in Putinism than in our own societies. Trump compares the Russian tyrant favorably against Obama. Reportedly, 37% of Republicans now admire Putin. They see him as a “strong leader.” America’s alt-right in particular embraces Putin as a kind of cult hero, the antithesis of our own culture going squishy soft.
This is deeply sick. Putin is a thug who rules by theft, lies, repression, silencing and jailing critics, and, in a lot of cases, murdering them. Russia is not admirable or moral. Putin runs it like Al Capone ran Chicago.
His invasion of Ukraine and Crimea – propelled by a huge propaganda blitz of disinformation and lies – was aimed mainly at stoking Russian nationalism, to distract his people from his regime’s criminality and the economic dysfunction resulting therefrom. (Aggravated by Western sanctions.) Putin gambled that guns would trump butter in Russians’ eyes, and seems to be right. But he’d like impunity for his military aggressions, and to that end has been meddling in European and U.S. politics.
Trump has made noises about removing sanctions, and getting along better with Russia, which really means going along with Russia. And more broadly, the Kremlin would prefer a blundering ignoramus leading its chief adversary nation. Plenty of reasons why Putin sought a Trump victory.
Now we see yet another one. While the Kremlin tried to smear Hillary Clinton, it was never credible to imagine they had no dirt on Trump who is, after all, orders of magnitude filthier. That they were holding it back makes perfect sense – not only because they wanted him to win, but also to blackmail him afterwards. Trump’s denials are about as credible as his denial that he was ever a pussy grabber. His bashing intelligence agencies for leaking this new information is also phony, because in fact it was leaked by private organizations, not any intelligence services. Meanwhile, some authoritative analysts are saying the details are totally consistent with the way the Russians operate.
Putin’s meddling to help Trump may actually have been the most successful such covert scheme in history. For all his ludicrous talk of an “historic landslide,” Trump won only thanks to razor-thin margins in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It’s hardly far-fetched to think the Russians harmed Clinton’s campaign at least enough to flip those three. The most serious attack upon our democracy ever.
The Russians have used disinformation for a long time. Our healthy body politic had an immune system that resisted the virus. This time that immune system didn’t kick in – our immune system against not only Kremlin foul play but against every other bad thing Pussy Grabber embodies. That we elected such a vile creep, exactly as Russia wanted – and most Americans just shrug their shoulders – shows that America today is one sick puppy.