ANDREY SMIRNOV/AFP/GettyImages
High Anxiety
What Happened, Indeed

How Putin’s domestic political worries fuel Russian interference in U.S. politics.

Published on: December 26, 2017
Thomas O. Melia was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (2010-2015) and Assistant Administrator of USAID (2015-2017) during the Obama Administration, and is currently a fellow at the George W. Bush Institute and a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
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  • hecate9

    A very useful and perceptive article- thank you.
    Putin seems to have interfered with the US election for at least four reasons:
    1. He greatly preferred one candidate (and that candidate’s handlers- Bannon, et al) to the other, thinking Trump would be both more sympathetic (since Trump deeply admires Putin) and more malleable/dupe-able.
    2. It would be easy to do. A group of Russian trolls in boiler rooms in Petersbug and Moscow and Voronezh could morph into an “army” of “concerned” Americans almost overnight. Apparently they plied both MAGA/Tea Party sites and far left sites to whip up anti- HRC frenzy.
    3. Any “blowback” could be harnessed to the collective Russian “the West is against us” angst, which is more grist for Putin’s nationalist mill.
    4. Monkey-wrenching western elections to some degree calls into question the usefulness and legitimacy of elections in general, which helps Putin in his anti-democratic project.

    What is unclear-in the case of the US at least- is how big a role this played in the election outcome at the end of the day. I’m no fan of Trump but I feel it probably did NOT play a decisive role. But he will keep trying. No reason not to.

    Putin is the “eminence noire” for Russia- but to some extent he is the “eminence guise” for the USA and other fragile western democracies.

  • AbleArcher

    Nobody to do for putin what he did for yeltsin -cut a deal and pardon/guarantee his freedom and literal semi truck loads of illicitly gotten cash. there’s no such thing as a bank in Russia that’s not Putin-connected. Clinton’s took a lot of Russian money. Please stop with the Russian nonsense as it pertains to the Clintons and election. Clintons are up to their eyeballs in Russian money. Hillary was arranging meetings for medvedev trying to help them set up a Russian Silicon Valley.

    What made their wonderful relationship break down was Obumers and Hillary’s and Sam Powers UN lies. They blatantly lied to Russia and China so that they would abstain on the resolution for a supposedly limited operation in Libya. We all know it turned out to be very broad and a regime change operation. Putin didn’t appreciate that. Can’t blame him. Obama and Clinton destroyed Libya and helped terrorists. That’s a plain fact.

  • Aaron Saenz

    Melia makes some interesting points but his distance from observing Russian propaganda seems obvious – and nobody would expect Melia, with his academic formation and experience in Africa to be an expert on Russia. A small point is that Russia Today (RT’s official motto is “Question More”, while the motto of sister-propaganda organ Sputnik is “Telling the Untold”.

  • dan berg

    nice to know this smug, forward leaning professional is waiting for Sec. Tillerson to attain his elevated embodiment of American values.

  • cyrus

    Who is going to threaten Putin, those he murdered or those he imprisoned or those he bought?

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