Russian leader Vladimir Putin may have, in some form or fashion, helped Donald Trump win the American presidency, according to a declassified document from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Since that document was declassified, more intelligence regarding a connection between Trump’s team and the Russian regime has been leaked. The now infamous dossier, written by a former British MI6 agent and published online by Buzzfeed, alleges that Russia has dirt on The Donald, enough dirt that some Americans are worried that there’s a backchannel in the White House and it runs from the Oval Office straight to Moscow.
That’s also besides the fact that the FBI knew about the dossier and potential connections as early as last summer when the Democratic National Convention was hacked by Russia around the same time that Trump encouraged Russia to hack the DNC saying, “I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
Since then, Trump’s rhetoric on Russia hasn’t changed and connections are getting harder to ignore.
Trump continues to praise Putin. After the CIA confirmed suspicions of the Kremlin hacking the DNC, Trump denied his own intelligence agencies’ information until flip-flopping and saying, “I think it was Russia,” before adding “We’ll have to work something out, but it’s not just Russia.”
Portions of the dossier have now been confirmed, but Trump has dismissed it as “fake news,” which is ironically something Russia is known for globally.
The connections don’t stop with post-campaign comments.
Trump’s legal team was somehow named Russia Law Firm of the Year last year. Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, resigned or was fired last year amid allegations that he was illegally receiving millions of dollars in off-the-books payments from pro-Russian Ukrainian officials. Trump’s national security adviser, General Michael Flynn, was paid by the Kremlin last year to speak at a gala held by Russian funded news-service RT, and Flynn is currently being investigated for not only contacting Russian officials before Trump was elected in December, but for giving them advice on how to handle sanctions being imposed by then-President Barack Obama. Trump’s secretary of state pick, Rex Tillerson, also has strong ties to Russia. As CEO of Exxon, he entered the company into a deal with primarily Russian government owned oil company Rosneft after Tillerson had been managing Exxon’s Russian account for years prior.
Rosneft is at the center of its own hazy web of deals currently. Another former Trump adviser, Carter Page, was reportedly the middle-man between Manafort and Russia during the campaign, is heavily invested in Russian energy company Gazprom, and issued an anti-American speech in Moscow during the campaign last year. According to the recent dossier, Page was reportedly offered a 19 percent share in Rosneft in exchange for helping lift Russian sanctions if Trump won the presidency. In December, after Trump’s victory, 19.5 percent of Rosneft was sold with the buyer hidden behind what Reuters reported to be a shell game of offshore companies. If Trump does lift the Russian sanctions, the evidence will become even more damning.
The ties between Russia and the Trump administration are a cause for concern, but how far does the influence go globally?
The 2016 election was influenced by Russian hacking, but Russia has also set up dozens of fake news websites aimed at undermining progressive governments and their leaders. The cyber-attack is not confined to America.
In Europe, Russian influence has already been seen in countries such as France and Germany. Like America this time last year, those countries are heading into election seasons in which the voters will have a clear choice: progressive inclusiveness or totalitarian, anti-immigrant populism. That choice should sound familiar to anybody who watched American elections and the result could be similar.
France, Germany, Netherlands, Ukraine and Czechoslovakia and other countries have all seen a rise in fake news, propaganda-fueled websites that can be traced back to Russia. France is teaming up with Google and Facebook to combat it while Germany attempts to establish a fake news task force, the BBC reported.
In Eastern Europe, Russia continues its advance, but if it is planning a ground war on Europe, it is already years ahead in its cyber wargames.
But why is Russia making all of these moves right now?
Russia has always been on the wrong side of history. The big lumbering bear of Europe that can’t ever seem to establish a strong economy or take care of its people continues to operate under communist-like cronyism despite the fall of the USSR. Rosneft and Gazprom are the two largest assets Russia has but falling oil prices and sanctions have reduced their worth.
Russia has continued to emphasize military strength over progressive reform, and despite early economic gains under Putin, that economy is now faltering.
That is why the latest actions by Russia to earn legitimacy through association with the United States is so crucial. It is Russia’s power play to regain its strongholds and attempt to have the sanctions removed to defy the fall in oil prices.
In Europe, Russia continues to press forward despite reports of cuts in military spending ahead of Putin’s election year. In the Middle East, Russia has replaced the U.S. as the foreign power exercising the most control of the situation. In the South China Sea, Russian fleets arrived in the Philippines, a longtime ally and outpost of the U.S., where Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov said, "You can choose to cooperate with United States of America or to cooperate with Russia,” according to the New Zealand Herald.
In the U.S., the CIA has said it is loathe to give all intelligence to Trump, because of fears that information could land in Russian hands.
If Trump is friendly with Russia and lifts the U.S. sanctions, it will be the boost Russia needs to topple free elections in Europe and potentially start a war.
If that happens, the U.S. will finally have to recognize how entangled it is in Russia’s web and ask itself which side it’s on, even if
its president already seems to have decided. •