Saturday, January 14, 2017

Keeping up with the multi-faceted positioning on the Russian hacking issue

The Russia issue right now reminds me all too much of the early years of Cold War 1.0, when militarized and simplistic views of the Soviet Union gained the upper hand. Even George Kennan, the realist credited with the "containment" doctrine, later criticized the actual implementation of the policy as being much too exclusively.

PBS Newshour's Political Wrap segment Friday, Shields and Brooks on Russian intrigue in American politics, Obama’s farewell 01/13/2017, Bobo refers to the far-right parties that ideologically align with Putinism - or should we call it Trumputinism now? - as "Marxism in reverse." Which makes no sense conceptually, but it's an example of how American images of post-Soviet Russia are still heavily shaped by Cold War ideas and experience.

Here are some notable recent analyses of the Russian-interference issue.

Gareth Porter, Mainstream Media’s Russian Bogeymen Consortium News 01/13/2016

Masha Gessen, Russia, Trump & Flawed Intelligence NYR Daily 01/09/2017

Sophia McClennen looks at the larger context of foreign interference in elections in The new American exceptionalism: How the Russian connection to the 2016 election signals the destruction of our nation’s ideals Salon 01/014/2017. This is an area where we need to be able to walk and talk at the same time. Yes, the US tries to interfere in political processes including elections in other countries. Despite formal diplomatic and legal requirements, it's part of how statecraft is practiced. And part of the game on all sides is to try to have Our Side get away with it while preventing the Other Side from doing it. This context is important, even beyond the US-Russia context. McClennen embeds this tweet:

The Insanity of a New Cold War: A Top Russian Scholar Sounds the Alarm Truthdig 01/13/2017

David Ignatius' interview is worth hearing, What we still don’t know after a week dominated by Russia questions 01/13/2017:

Timothy Snyder speculated in April of 2016 on Putin's likely view of Trump (Trump’s Putin Fantasy NYR Daily 04/19/2016):

Trump correctly says that Putin respects strength. But of course Putin prefers weakness, which is what Trump offers. As Putin understands perfectly well, the president of the United States has standing in Russia, and enjoys far superior power to the president of Russia, only insofar as he or she mobilizes the moral and political resources of a rule-of-law state. It is precisely Trump’s pose of strength that reveals his crucial vulnerability. As anyone familiar with Russian politics understands, an American president who shuns alliances with fellow democracies, praises dictators, and prefers “deals” to the rule of law would be a very easy mark in Moscow. It is unclear how much money Trump has, but it is not enough to matter in Russia. If he keeps up his pose as the tough billionaire, he will be flattered by the Russian media, scorned by those who matter in Russia, and then easily crushed by men far richer and smarter than he. ...

The Russian expectation is that a Trump victory would be ruinous for American power, and that such power as remains will be deployed to support Russian interests. Trump’s fantasy friendship with Putin is one more reason to expect that a Trump victory would also be disastrous for American values and institutions. Putin can be expected, if the two men actually meet as presidents, to flatter Trump’s vanity and urge him onward toward a full assault on the Constitution. Russia is in a downward spiral of its own; what Americans must consider now is a weak presidential candidate who wants to follow Putin’s charm where it leads, which most likely means straight to the bottom.
Jonathan Landay and Arshad Mohammed, Trump adviser had five calls with Russian envoy on day of sanctions - sources Reuters/MSN News 01/13/2017:

Michael Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump's choice for national security adviser, held five phone calls with Russia's ambassador to Washington on the day the United States retaliated for Moscow's interference in the U.S. presidential election, three sources familiar with the matter said.

The calls occurred between the time the Russian embassy was told about U.S. sanctions and the announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that he had decided against reprisals, said the sources. They spoke on condition of anonymity, citing internal U.S. government deliberations about the issue.
This claim is far more specific, verifiable and explainable that the Russia-hacks-DLC-gets-documents-toWikileaks-and-thereby-tilts-the-election-to-Trump story. The evidence for the hacking claims that the intelligence community thinks it's safe to put into the public record is limited by the concern of protecting "sources and methods." In the case Flynn's calls to the Russian Embassy, whether he made the calls or not should be easy for the intelligence agencies to verify even from standard phone records. It's a highly questionable thing for a senior official of a new Administration to be doing without coordination with the current US government. It was shady thing to do no matter what the content of the conversation was, and especially at that particular time.

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