Monday, December 9, 2019

Russian Influence-za

The US-Russian saga is the most interesting (and terrifying) thing going on in the world today. And if it's seemed too piecemeal and confusing to follow, I totally get it. But even if you think it doesn't affect you, I promise it does. Therefore, we need to understand even just the basics.
So here we go...

Where to start? Let's begin with:

He believed the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geo-political catastrophe of the century. As a KGB officer he was humiliated by the fall of the USSR and blamed the west- specifically the United States. He's made it his mission to bring Russia back to its former glory and will do anything it takes to humiliate the U.S. and vindicate his homeland.

Watch Putin's Revenge the two part series from FRONTLINE to understand why Putin hates the U.S., despises Hillary Clinton, and desperately needs to have a way to protect himself and his wealth.

In order for Putin to get revenge he needs two thing: money and power. 

Putin needs money: one to maintain his power and two to ensure his safety. But it does him little good to hoard all his money in Russia so he needs to launder it out of the country. He was doing that successfully by building up oligarchs' (beholden to him) fortunes until lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, working for an American-born British financier, Bill Browder, was tortured and killed while in a Moscow prison. 

Browder vowed to avenge his lawyer/friend's death and lobbied and passed the Magnitsky Act which: 
authorizes the U.S. government to sanction those who it sees as human rights offenders, freeze their assets, and ban them from entering the U.S. 
Hear more about Browder and Magnitsky in this Stay Tuned with Preet podcast or this interview. It ties in why Putin was desperate to get sanctions removed and why the Trump Tower meeting which invoked "Russian adoptions" was really codeword for getting the U.S. to remove these financial restrictions through a back channel. 

Active Measures
If the oligarchs, and therefore Putin, are prevented from laundering money out of Russia they are backed into a corner and feel provoked to do ever more desperate things. 

What they did was accelerate ongoing active measures:
Active measures is a term for the actions of political warfare conducted by the Soviet and Russian security services (Cheka, OGPU, NKVD, KGB, FSB) to influence the course of world events.
These measures included calling in favors from the likes of Paul Manafort and Donald Trump to the Russian mob that had aided in money laundering and suspicious dealings over the years.  

So how will Putin ensure sanctions are removed and maintain his power and wealth?

Roger Stone
Well, before we get to the how we need to introduce Roger Stone into the picture. It's easy to think Roger is just a bad joke and write him off as a would-be-Batman-villain, but in actuality he is one of the most important back-seat political drivers of the last 40+ years.

Watch Get Me Roger Stone to see how one man messing around behind the scenes- not to mention blatantly in front of the cameras- can alter an election in front of our very eyes. See how his ties with Paul Manafort (they were business partners from back in the 80's); his 30+ year relationship with Donald Trump; his dirty-trickster ways; and his link to WikiLeaks affected the 2016 election.

For the logistics of the how, we check in with Steve Bannon and the Cambridge Analytica folks. Their manipulation of our data through Facebook and in conjunction with Russian active measures was a perfect storm which blew Trump into office. 

The Great Hack

This accomplished several things for Putin: took down Hillary Clinton, stirred chaos with Trump and U.S. allies and got our fellow citizens to turn against each other.  

Putin has been successful using active measures so much so we are now in a place where Republicans who were until recently staunch Russian opponents are now either doing his bidding or at least not preventing him from waging a cyber/disinformation war on the American public. 

Are our politicians infected with Russian influence-za? Do they not know what is going on beneath their very noses? Or are they choosing to surrender our elections and our very democracy to save their careers and their power? Is this Putin's dream come true or are we going to wake up and unite behind securing our elections, holding accountable those who betrayed our country and defending our nation from foes foreign and domestic? 



On July 10, 2020 President Trump commuted Roger Stones prison sentence. This is the same day that Stone told reporter Howard Fineman

One would ask: what information pray-tell would Roger have on Trump that would allow him this leverage? And if Trump is willing to play ball with Stone what would he be willing to do if Putin had kompromat on him? 

Our elections are coming and Trump will do anything to stay in power so he doesn't need to face charges and investigations he is now shielded from as POTUS. Roger Stone and Paul Manafort are now out of jail and we as a country are more divided and distracted from the real enemy. 

While Covid-19 is killing 130,000+ Americans, we need to also fight the Russian Influence-za that is about to kill our democracy. We must join together and vote like our lives and our very country depends on it- because it does!!! 


Update II: 

Agents of Chaos came out in September from HBO and adds more to social media piece:

Note: End of year Trump pardons of Manafort and Stone. 😏

Stay tuned, I'm sure there will be much more of this story to unfold over the years to come...