Yesterday, an old friend called me up to check in.  He was wondering why I was being so quiet on Facebook.   Despite the fact that he clearly hadn’t missed me for a year, I was happy to speak with him, as he’s one of the most intellectual and most interesting friends I’ve ever had.  On the rare occasion we talk, it’s always a long and wide-ranging discussion.

“What do you think about Trump and Russia?” he asked me at one point, when the conversation had turned to politics.  He’s a very centrist libertarian type.

I was taken aback because I don’t think I’ve ever discussed it with anyone over the phone.  It’s different when you debate something online all the time. “Ah, well, you see,” I said as I tried to get my brain in gear.  “There are so many different components to it.  You have the FISA/Carter Page issue, which I’ve recently been examining.  Then you have the Don Jr meeting with Russians and other attempts by the Trump campaign to get the 30,000 “missing” Clinton emails.  There’s the obstruction issue with Comey’s firing and then there’s the one with Russian bots on Twitter and Facebook.  Finally, there’s whatever the hell Mueller is doing with Manafort and old money laundering cases.  It’s hard to sum all that up.”

“Why did they do it?  Why do you think the Russians were helping Trump?” he asked.

From there, I shared some of my theories with him, as I was already working on this post.  Here’s what I had to say: “I don’t know for sure.” None of us do.  Maybe we’ll never find out, but it’s fun to speculate and discuss.

In a nutshell, I agree with Rosenstein’s opinion that they wanted to sow chaos and discord in our society.  Most of their efforts, perhaps 80 to 90% (it’s hard to quantify) seemed to help rather than hurt Trump.  Many people look at that and say that it points to collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.  They start looking for something that proves it, reasons Trump or Putin would benefit from such an arrangement, and so on.

I don’t think it’s as simple as “Putin wanted Trump to be president because he could use him as a puppet.”  Instead, I think we’re seeing a different motivation for Russian interference in the 2016 election.  The Russians were trying to accomplish something else.  They seem to have been encouraging polarization in our society for its own sake.  To cause harm to the US; weaken it.

Russians have long believed that the United States is heading for a break-up.  Igor Panarin, a former KGB agent, outlined an assessment all the way back in 1998 that the US was ripe for fracture.  Last September, Sarah Smith over on Medium referred to this and how Russia might have tried to bring it to fruition during the election.  It’s worth reading in full, but here’s a useful snippet:

Panarin outlines three main causes for the U.S. collapse: mass immigration, economic decline, and moral degradation. I believe the Kremlin took this information, combined it with other intelligence, and spent the last years engaging in information warfare on U.S. soil.

This is one of those times I’m going to tell you that you should read the entire thing.  Panarin is an interesting character.  Far from a conspiracy theorist, he’s highly respected among governing circles in his home country.  I can see why.  Each of the three things he highlighted were factors in American society in 2016.  Even though it seems that his predictions that a civil war would manifest itself in 2010, it looks to me like that was the year it all came to a head.  He was only wrong about the timeline, but it’s hard to say that he was totally wrong when one of the largest states in the Union is now openly defying the federal government over enforcement of immigration law.

As I see it, there are two of those that were huge drivers during the election: immigration and moral degradation.  Trump was clearly on one side of those (unless you think he wants to crash the economy on purpose).   He wanted to combat the effects of mass immigration and change the culture away from what is perceived as degradation.  Any disagreement on that?

Then what did the Russians hope would happen in a Trump presidency, if he’s not their puppet?

There are two possibilities.

  1. The Russians wanted to exacerbate the effects of polarization in American society to lead to the breakup and weakening of the US that Panarin foretold.  They were trying to screw us.
  2. The Russians wanted to prevent the dissolution of the US by electing the president who would prevent those three drivers from splitting it apart.  They were trying to help us.

Number one is easy enough to grasp, isn’t it?  Putin wants a free hand in Eastern Europe to do whatever, right?  Can’t do it while the US is meddling.  Needs to weaken US power and influence.  That’s straightforward, isn’t it?  Trump isn’t helping with that, you know.  If he’s a puppet, he’s doing it wrong.

So let’s entertain the possibility that number two is correct.  “What do you mean the Russians were trying to help the United States by hacking the election, you asshole?” you might ask.  Well, I’m glad you did, Mr Strawman.

It may well be that the Russians believe that a dis-united US would not be helpful to Russia.  Don’t laugh, Smith’s article bluntly says that this wouldn’t be good for the world economy.  An American economic collapse or weakness would impact North America, Europe, and then Russia logically, right?

Putin has expressed an interest in informing Americans about the misdeeds of the US government and I’m not going to lie; I find these arguments persuasive since I traditionally have deep distrust for the US government myself.  Look at the joy Putin took in discussing the NSA’s abuse of Americans’ civil rights with Edward Snowden.

What else is that referring to if not also the same FISA abuse described by Nunes in his memo?  Do we have questions in the US about domestic spying?  I think we do.

That isn’t all.  Let’s say that the Russians did hack the DNC and Podesta and go on to leak their emails to Wikileaks.  Was this an evil act, in your opinion?  An ostensibly democratic primary election was rigged with the full knowledge and even cooperation of the media.  The Russians felt it was necessary to get the truth out and inform the American public of how fully corrupted its institutions were.  Is that evil or is the election rigging evil and just too uncomfortable for many to face?  Because that really is what happened.

As president, Hillary Clinton would have continued Obama’s open borders immigration policies.  She would have continued to promote what Vladimir Putin and many American conservatives regard as morally degenerate behavior.  And we would likely continue the lackluster economic performance of the Obama years.

So I ask you this.  If the Russians believed that those three factors would lead to the dissolution of the United States, why wouldn’t they have propped up the candidate who would have aggravated them instead of the one who was going to challenge them if they wanted to bring it about?

I’ve said myself that if Clinton were president now, we’d be on the road to civil war because of her election primary rigging, the unequal enforcement of the law in her emails case, and the domestic spying against the Trump campaign.  If that’s what Russia wanted, why boost Trump?

Instead, maybe Putin decided that it would be best to make sure that the American public was fully informed of just how crooked the relationship was between its politicians, “Deep State”, and the media.  It used bots on social media to spread the message that the American press wouldn’t about how dangerous the Democratic candidate was because of all the factors one of their intelligence experts had determined would potentially destroy the US 20 years earlier.

What if Putin was the good guy?  Can you handle that thought?

Again, I don’t know.  I don’t claim to know and I don’t think any of us ever will for sure.  But I think it’s an interesting paradigm shift.  Please, please read the linked article before you criticize me though.

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Oh i could see either be true, or even both. given a bureaucracy its possible that 2 department s in the same intelligence service might be working at opposing goals, without knowing it. The effects of a breakup of the USA, given that is is a violent one, would collapse all world markets for a bit, and throw everything into a tizzy. Yes, the Russians would stand to gain greatly however, there would be such a great quantity of unkowns to play with. China loosing its biggest trading partner would be in crisis, with a massive portion of its industries… Read more »

Rohshan Baught

William Guess thank you for this inspiring tweet. #NRA

And this leads me to wonder: how effective did the Russians think this whole operation was going to be? Was it that they live in a society where speaking out against the government can still result in consequences and so they thought they were doing something brave; or is it that they thought Americans are stupid enough to believe anything?

I think it was part of a larger effort, basically nickel and dimming us, a little here a little there. It provided intel, access, and hopefully some amount of leverage in unexpected places.

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