Whom Does Putin Really Want in the White House?
Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook recently suggested that Russian intelligence leaked Democrat National Committee (DNC) emails in an attempt to undermine his candidate and promote Donald Trump. In doing so, Mook followed the example of his master, or perhaps her direct instruction, for bamboozling a compliant press and public when confronted with negligence or wrongdoing. This means nestling a kernel of possible truth within a humongous lie, as in turning Republican dislike of the Clintons into a "huge right wing conspiracy." Or denying that classified material ran through Hillary's server by claiming that nothing was ever "marked classified at the time" (though eventually even this truth kernel rotted away).
It's certainly possible that mischievous Russian hackers supplied Wikileaks with embarrassing emails that demonstrated yet again the corruption within the Democrat machine, as the DNC (supposedly unbiased) tipped the scales in favor of Hillary. It is quite another to deduce from this that Russia's goal is to promote Trump over Clinton. In fact, the idea is fairly preposterous, from the standpoints that this would be an operation with a reasonable chance of long-term success and that Russia would find a Trump presidency preferable.
Mook, and his boss (having barely survived her own email scandal), evidently launched this desperate gambit to divert attention from Clinton's almost certainly hacked private email server, by implying that Trump is at worst some kind of Russian agent, at best a patsy. That this charge got even a little traction in the pro-Clinton mainstream media, rather than the approbation and ridicule it would have received had a Republican suggested the same of a Democrat, only proves that most mainstream "journalists" are totally in the tank for Hillary, regardless of how low she stoops.
Having said all that, evidently there is a fairly strong likelihood that the Russians were behind the hack and dissemination of the emails. This hardly means that that Putin wants to tip the election in favor of Trump over Clinton. Mathew Rojansky of the Wilson Center notes:
What is harder to believe is that Vladimir Putin is specifically picking sides, or that he actually thinks that a blatant external intervention of this type can have a predictable effect on U.S. voters that would necessarily be good for Russia. Sure, there has been plenty of hype about Donald Trump's connections to Russian oligarchs and some shady sounding potential real estate deals in the post-Soviet space. And Putin would have every reason to like Trump's talk about playing hardball with NATO allies and his campaign's apparent opposition to providing the Ukrainians with lethal weapons.
Yet none of that is evidence that Trump is in any way Putin's man, much less that Putin would think he can intervene in the U.S. election and get a good result for Russia. If anything, the now very public insinuations about the Trump organization's Russian ties or the suggestion that Putin is backing Trump against Hillary could alienate some very important swing voters, including Americans of Polish, Ukrainian, Baltic, and other East European descent concentrated in swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois. Russians have a lot of strange misconceptions about American politics, as we do about theirs, but they're well enough informed to know how badly this could backfire.
That fairly puts paid the idea that Trump is a Russian agent or that Putin is trying to rig the election to get Trump in the White House. But there is more to consider than that. What Rojansky diplomatically omits is the flip-side of the coin: why Putin would rather actually have Hillary in the White House.
The past eight years have been something of a field day for the Russians vis-à-vis the United States and the West, thanks in large part to Barack Obama, Hillary, and a collection of generally like-minded European leaders. In fact, Russia under their collective watch is seeing some of its traditional grand historic ambitions coming within reach. From the Middle East to the Baltic, the weaknesses of Obama and Hillary have transformed the Russian position for the better.
Russia's primary historic strategic concerns on its Western flank have been controlling or influencing the border nations that lie on invasion routes each way. Under Obama-Clinton, Russia forestalled the installation of defensive missile batteries in Poland, occupied Ukrainian Crimea, seized the eastern extremities of that country, and placed it under immense pressure. In the north, the Russians have aggressively pushed up against the Baltic states while regularly harassing NATO ships and planes, without suffering any effective riposte.
A second historic Russian interest is securing its southern flank and its access to warm water ports. Again, under Obama-Clinton this has been a substantial success. Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war allowed the establishment of a permanent warm water base for the Russians in Syria. U.S. support of Turkish strongman Recep Erdoğan (at one time considered Obama's best buddy among foreign leaders) has helped push that longtime Russian rival and occasional enemy farther away from its Western alliances and weaken and destabilize that country, especially militarily. Another win.
A third historic Russian interest is the southwest Asia. The so-called "Great Game" conducted between the British and Russian Empires in the late 19th century was largely over Iran. Iran now is an effective Russian ally and, thanks to Obama-Hillary, will soon be a nuclear-armed one, under Russian suasion. Iran threatens Western interests in the Persian Gulf while Russia's own energy pipeline of oil and gas run securely to the north.
Finally, there is the Middle East itself, where Russia under the Soviets took great interest and invested substantial treasure. The Soviets successfully courted Egypt, the Arab world's largest and most influential nation, while pressuring Israel, the West's outpost in the region. However, following a series of unsuccessful wars against the Israelis, the Egyptians abandoned the Russians in the 1970s and became an important American ally. This major American foreign policy success, like so many others, has also been laid waste by Obama-Clinton. Russia is quickly becoming Egypt's primary arms supplier (as it had been before the U.S. supplanted it forty years ago) as Egypt's government reacted poorly to America's abandonment of Hosni Mubarak and embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt is another major Russian coup gained under Hillary's incompetent watch.
But it gets even better for Putin. For even as Egypt slides back into the Russian fold, its militarily and technologically adept neighbor and former foe, Israel, is also warming to Putin, thanks to the cold shoulder of Obama-Clinton, one which will almost certainly continue under Hillary's watch – she who shrilly harangued Benjamin Netanyahu over some imaginary insult or another. Her party's platform is now chock full of anti-Zionist ninnies, and her top aide's family is closely tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. Today Israel's crack pilots coordinate their bombing runs in Syria with Russians and allow Russian planes to invade Israeli airspace, while Russia now purchases Israeli drones.
So please explain, Mr. Mook, why Vladimir Putin would prefer to have Trump in the White House when Hillary has already done so much for him.