In 2014, the regime of Vladimir Putin invaded the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. In 2016, the same regime invaded the United States. The first invasion took place as a normal military operation. Instead, the second was a spectacular episode of cyber warfare that, in the context of the election campaign, included the spread of disinformation about what was happening and ideas that many persist to this day.
It was a broad strategy to have influence and control over social media. Dissension and confusion were sown on many fronts, and even attempts were made to dissuade black voters from voting. In addition, Russian intelligence agencies targeted the voter lists of all 50 states. It is believed that this had no consequences, but demonstrated the scope and ambition of third countries’ intervention in the network.
British investigative journalist Carol Cadwalladr tweeted last weekend that we didn’t see “Russia orchestrating a military attack on the West. We call this “intervention”. We use words like “intervention”. war. We have been under military attack for eight years now.” As he points out, Putin’s henchmen not only kept their eyes on the United States, but also tried to join forces to make Brexit a success. They also supported France’s far-right racist Front National party.
Intervention in the US presidential campaign – you could call it cyberwarfare or information intrusion – has taken many forms. Surprisingly, the media and left-wing pundits have dedicated themselves to denying the reality of the intervention and labeling those hostile to the Putin regime as right-wingers, as if modern-day Russia was a glorious socialist republic and not a country ruled by a former agent. … from a dictatorial KGB, with a history of assassinating journalists, jailing dissidents, embezzling tens of billions, and spearheading a global neo-fascist resurgence of white supremacy. By discrediting the news and attacking critics of the Russian government, they have provided Trump with key armor.
In a 2019 speech before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, former National Security Agency official Fiona Hill said Russia “was a foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016.” This is the conclusion of our intelligence agencies, confirmed by bipartisan congressional reports. This is undeniable, although some basic details must remain classified.
The impact of the successful Russian disinformation campaign of 2016 is still visible today. Our country has been torn apart; the truth is questioned; our knowledgeable and highly professional career foreign service officers are facing challenges. US support for Ukraine, which is facing armed aggression, is becoming politicized. President Putin and the Russian security services are seeking to counter US foreign policy goals in Europe, including Ukraine, where Moscow wants to reassert its political and economic dominance.
Claims of Russian interference have always been convincing. On October 7, 2016, the US Intelligence Services issued a devastating press release stating: “The US Intelligence Community (USIC) [una federación de 16 agencias de inteligencia que trabajan conjuntamente] I am convinced that the Kremlin arranged for emails to be sent to US citizens and institutions, including those received from political organizations.”
On one of the most unusual days in American political history, an Access Hollywood tape was released half an hour later, in which Trump boasted of sexual violence against women, and half an hour after that, Wikileaks began tweeting links to hacked emails from the personal account of the Chairman of the Clinton Campaign John Podesta. Wikileaks is believed to have obtained its materials from the Russian intelligence agency GRU; Republican veteran and Trump ally Roger Stone appears to have been the liaison between Wikileaks and the Trump team.
On October 30, 2016, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent an angry letter to then-FBI Director James Comey condemning that “it has become clear that you have explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers and the Russian government , a foreign interest hostile to the United States that Trump praises at every opportunity.” He unsuccessfully pressed Comey to release this information. On October 31, Obama contacted Putin via the nuclear risk reduction hotline to demand that he end this meddling, although the public only learned of this after Trump lost the popular vote but won the election.
Blackmail, illegal meetings and mail
Of course, the most striking aspect of the Russian government’s role in the 2016 US election was its many connections to Trump campaign advisers, including Trump himself, who kowtowed to Putin in denial throughout the campaign and four years of his presidency. Russian interference and changes first to the Republican Party’s election program and then to US policy in line with Putin’s agenda.
This included removing Ukraine’s support against Russia from the Republican list when it won primary, significant hostility towards NATO, and ultimately attempting to blackmail Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in 2019 by withholding military assistance, demanding that he confirm a Russian conspiracy theory. , which accuses Ukraine and not Russia of meddling in the 2016 elections.
A staggering number of Trump’s closest aides had close ties to the Russian government. Among them is Paul Manafort, who during his time in Ukraine worked to increase Russian influence in that country and was an adviser to the pro-Kremlin president of Ukraine, who was expelled from the country and transferred to Russia due to the 2014 protests. The Russian thesis that this was an illegitimate coup and therefore a justification for an invasion continues to be frequently repeated.)
Manafort, when he was a campaign adviser, shared information with Russian intelligence agent Konstantin Kilimnik, and campaign adviser Jeff Sessions shared information with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. On June 9, 2016, Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner held an illegal meeting at Trump Tower with a Kremlin-connected lawyer, where they were promised incriminating information about the Clinton campaign.
Sitting next to Putin when he was paid to speak at a gala dinner for RT, the Russian propaganda news agency, Michael Flynn briefly became Trump’s national security adviser. He was soon fired for lying to members of the White House, and later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.
He was allegedly tasked by Jared Kushner with making these contacts, and, as the Washington Post reported in May 2017, “Jared Kushner and the Russian ambassador to Washington have considered opening a secret and secure channel of communication between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin. using Russian diplomatic means in an apparent attempt to prevent monitoring of pre-inaugural discussions.” That same year, The Guardian reported that “Donald Trump Jr. was forced to release condemning emails saying he enthusiastically supported what he was told was an attempt by the Russian government to cripple Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”
why was it allowed
In retrospect, it is amazing that all these situations were made possible by corruption and immorality in the United States. It was the self-serving immorality of Silicon Valley that created the weapons and vulnerabilities and sat back to pocket the profits while they were used for destructive purposes.
It is the corrupt Americans, from Manafort to Trump himself, who have given Putin the influence he is now accumulating. International actors such as Wikileaks and Cambridge Analytica helped. It was the corruption of media outlets like Fox News that continued in Tucker Carlson’s case until he was overtaken by the invasion of Ukraine last week, defending Putin and spreading disinformation.
The Republican Party found its new leader by standing up to his corruption, covering up his crimes and defending him from the consequences, including two impeachments. The second impeachment followed after the storming of Congress, not by a foreign power, but by the right, inflamed by lies instigated by Trump and widely circulated by many in the party. They volunteered to cooperate in an attempt to sabotage free and fair elections, the rule of law and the truth.
Rebecca Solnit is a columnist for The Guardian US. His latest books are Memories of My Non-Being and Orwell’s Roses.
Translation by Emma Revert
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