LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Food for thought on Russian hacking investigation

After reading several recent articles about Russian attempts to interfere in the democratic election processes of several countries including the U.S., I’ve been trying to connect the dots (of information).

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is an ex-KGB man looking to restore his country’s power and influence. Western democracies, including the U.S.A., stand in the way of Putin’s ambitions for his “new” Russia. Weakening our democracy helps pave the way for Putin’s ambitions.

Virtually everyone would agree that Putin favored the election of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. Even as Trump labels attempts by Russian operatives to influence the 2016 election in his favor as “fake news,” independent analyses indicate a clear pattern of such behavior by the Russian Federation with Putin’s knowledge/approval.

Objective available evidence shows attempts at influence, including going directly to Trump Jr. with some dirt on Clinton. But attempted Russian hacking of voter registration bases and rather clumsy information peddling likely had little/no effect on the eventual outcome.

However, other Russian efforts may be having more disturbing, long-term effects. This presidential election cycle saw a dramatic uptick in deliberate Russian efforts to plant disinformation. Such disinformation — actual “fake news” — is designed to sow seeds of doubt about our democratic institutions and the people involved in government.

President Trump has exploited such doubts to withdraw from the Paris climate change accords, to hedge on NATO commitments, to pummel media about “fake news”, etc.

Our friends and allies see this as a diminishing of our power and moral influence around the globe. As a result, is Vlad smiling while he enjoys vacations in conquered Crimea, continues the Russian-fed war in eastern Ukraine and strengthens his foothold in Syria?

But has Putin been playing an even smarter, more sophisticated long term game all along? There can be little doubt that the Russians have had and continue to have an extensive psychological profile on Donald Trump. To even casual observers, it is obvious that some of Trump’s behaviors reflect a somewhat erratic, impulsive personality which limits his effectiveness as chief executive.

Did Vlad (and his GRU buddies) calculate the Trump personality would make Trump an ineffective —read WEAK — president who would be less able to lead interference against long-term Russian intentions?

Could Vlad be that smart? Worse, could Vlad be right?

Dan Cannon

EDITOR’S NOTE: GRU is the intelligence branch of the Russian military.

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