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Monday, September 4, 2017

The 2016 election

As I've blogged about in the past, it seems apparent that Russia influenced our election.  I know some of you roll your eyes and think I'm a tin-foil wearing guy who is seeing things in the shadows.

But let me take a step back a moment.  For 60 or so years, Russia (formerly the Soviet Union) has been locked in a battle of sorts with the United States to influence the world.  There was an escalation of nuclear arms, "the commie threat" era, glasnost, and an ever changing cast of characters.

And then we reached the 21st century.  W Bush made an effort to see Putin as an equal, and told us he wasn't evil. Obama took a different tone; and Hillary as SoS tried to reset relations, only to wind up antagonizing Putin.  

The Russians have their agenda.  Things they want.  Some of them are controlling interests in financially rewarding things (oil, real estate, etc).  Some are influence in other countries.  And the others are probably not as well defined, but rest assured that they want to set policy, rather than having the US always dictate it to them.

And the election cycle starts. It seems obvious that Hillary is going to be the Democratic nominee.  Putin has a distaste for her.  The Republican nominee is less well established.  But at that moment, it doesn't matter.  Putin sets his sights on destabilization.  If he can create enough "chaos" in the cycle, he can remove the biggest obstacle from his plan to set policy for most of the planet.

And, if he can destabilize part of Europe, then it gets even better.  Yes, there are other large players in the world, but he has good relations with China, and can exert some influence on the others.

As far as the US is concerned, it seems clear that Putin wanted to sow some discord.  If we actually look at what he did, we know he disrupted the process: he planted fake news, had bots on social media that did all manner of influencing public opinion, he hacked the DNC, and it appears as though he orchestrated some sort of vote hacking that caused us to question the outcome.  And he did it all while leaving what appear to be intentional digital fingerprints, so we would know he was engaged in our politics. 

On the last point about hacking the vote, I've been saying this for a while.  The numbers don't make sense.  Voting machines have been shown to be hackable.  The system is pretty generally broken, so it was unlikely we actually do anything to stop it or provide for any sort of manual backup....and even if we did, he left enough questions unanswered that we would have been mired in a different controversy and still left powerless.

And then comes the Trump factor.  Do I think Trump knowingly or wittingly colluded with Russia?  No, I don't.  I don't think he's smart enough to have considered that.  Some of the people around him surely were, and I think they helped dupe him into it.  

IMHO, his plan was to enter the race for president and be an antagonist, a sort of thorn in everyones side.  I personally believe that he was in it for the money.  He saw an opportunity to hold rallies, sell admission and trinkets, and fund raise.  And then when it was all over, he could walk away with real money he could use to self deal and enrich himself.

But he didn't count on Putin actually giving him a bit of an assist.  He was trying to get some business going in Russia.  And it appears that he was already indebted to some oligarchs.  So, when an opportunity presented itself, he enlisted Russia's help.  Maybe it was to get out of debt.  Maybe it was to get that elusive deal in Moscow.  Maybe at some point, he figured out that it was going to be treason-adjacent.  Or maybe not.  It doesn't really matter, because he became complicit by listening to those around him, taking meetings, and trying to get a deal done - in spite of sanctions currently in place.

And I think Putin saw him as a pawn in the big game.  Any of the other Republicans was a savvy politician who would have continued to try to promote US interests. Trump was only in it for himself.  So, if he could undermine the integrity of the election, why not take it a step further and try and help the hapless guy who who would make his work easier. 

We step off the world stage and argue about stupid shit.  

For Putin, its brilliant.  He takes us effectively out of the way.

For us, its problematic, and no matter what happens next, it will take us years, perhaps decades to return to a world stage, where we would still be behind the curve.

Make America Great?  Yeah, right.  Make us self-centered and make us fight among ourselves.  That's #winning.  

We need to find a way out from here.  Hopefully, the various investigations lead somewhere and we reset back 8 months and move on.

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