…I would use the American mainstream press to undermine the US government. “But wait, wouldn’t Putin want to support the Trump administration in their efforts to improve US-Russia relations?” you might reply. That is true, Putin would surely prefer improved US-Russia relations including a lifting of sanctions to the sour relationship that they have currently. But politics is the art of the possible. For Trump to be able to implement his vision of US-Russia relations, he would need a lot of political capital and limited Deep State opposition. Currently, he has neither. Obama holdovers and other agents of the Deep State are able to effectively torpedo policy changes they oppose through strategic leaking.
Putin isn’t a dummy. He understands the realities of the US political system better than most Americans. He would therefore rationally make the calculation that undermining the US is significantly more achievable than the ideal route of a thaw in the climate. First of all, the undermining route is easy to accomplish. The US press is already salivating at any chance at all to undermine and attack Trump for real and imagined offenses. Just look at CNN and the “Two Scoops” baloney. Using the press to attack the US is the political equivalent of taking candy from a baby. It is easy to leak information or unsubstantiated rumors through intermediaries in order to maintain full plausible deniability. I’ve argued in another post on this blog that Putin as a former intelligence operative understands that attacks can come in many forms.
US political commentators and analysts fail to appreciate that times have changed. In the past physical force and intimidation with your military were key to influence opposing powers. Today, the tools of the game have changed. WikiLeaks, journalism, social media and the internet have created an entire new battlefield for political war. This is the political equivalent of Fourth Generation Warfare theory. Another way to look at it is to think that Putin knows he can’t compete with the US on equal footing in military terms. He has therefore moved on to another battlefield on which they are much more equal. Conducting an attack in the information sphere is relatively costless. Just look at how effective the Russia-Trump collusion story has been, despite the lack of evidence. It is truly what Scott Adams might call “weapons grade persuasion”.
Putin’s (alleged) course of action is thus entirely rational. For low cost and low risk he can stagger the US, not defeat, but impede their ability to act domestically and internationally. That is more than good enough for Putin. It is the geopolitical equivalent of “a bird in your hand is better than ten on the roof”. I thus think it highly plausible that the MSM are the useful idiots of the Kremlin. No, that is not entirely appropriate. The Kremlin and the mainstream media are more accurately describable as allies in their desire to undermine the government of the United States. And for the record, I have no confidence at all in the alleged collusion between Trump and Russia. It is little more than extremely effective narrative created as political persuasion by the Democrats. It is how they fight back, dirty, and with lies.