Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Is This What Blowback Looks Like?

Does Russia believe Trump is good for Russia, or not?

The notion peddled by Democrats, of all people, that Russia wanted Trump to be president because he would appease Russian aggression is nonsense. Here's a similar take:

The Kremlin and the Russian foreign policy establishment may not like Hillary Clinton, but unlike Trump, they saw her as predictable.

Putin and company expected her election, but they wanted her presidency to be hobbled from the start.

They wanted a messy and contested election result that would allow them to say American democracy is not as clean as it claims to be.

What they got instead was a clean, clear, unambiguous, and uncontested result.

Russia expected to get a crippled but predictable (made even more "predictable" by the Kremlin's possession of Clinton's secret emails that would have provided blackmail material) President Hillary Clinton.

And now the Russians have to deal with a President Trump who apparently can't be damaged by any revelation. That's gotta suck from the Kremlin's point of view.

And worse for Russia, rather than showing American-style democracy to be too difficult to carry out (and thus have less appeal to Russians should Putin's aura of success crack), we got a clear result with no constitutional crisis.

And even worse, our people elected the candidate that the national media waged war against. And our people voted even though the national elites and media tried to bully them through shame into passivity.

For Putin who relies on state media to prop him up and the power of the state to bully any opposition into passivity, our election must be profoundly disturbing.

So no, Putin should not be celebrating the election of Trump. If Putin truly expected much, he wouldn't openly welcome Trump's election when Putin knows that Putin does not rank highly in American esteem.

I will say that there is a chance that the Russians themselves are divided on this. If the Russians hold off on actions in Syria and Ukraine, then we can say that the Russians think they have a chance of a flexible reset America under Trump.

But if some belief Trump will be cooperative, some Russians seem to realize they may have miscalculated:

Russia expects Western sanctions over the Ukraine conflict to stay in place despite Donald Trump winning the U.S. presidential election, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday.

And there is this:

Moscow is skeptical about pre-election promises made by the U.S. president-elect Donald Trump to cooperate with Russia in Syria, a Russia's foreign ministry official said on Monday, Interfax news agency reported.

Yet at the same time the hope seems to be alive:

Russia is ready to work fast to repair relations with Washington now that Donald Trump has been elected U.S. president, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying on Monday by RIA news agency.

That kind of indecision works for us.

So perhaps the Wikileaks operation was a failed Russian information warfare campaign against America. Russia hoped to delegitimize our democracy and that failed. And the secondary question of whether Trump or Clinton (or neither) would be better for Russia may be under debate.

One thing for sure, there will be no Christmas bonuses over this FSB operation.

And my thanks to the American media for polling so badly that the Russians thought they could count on a Hillary Clinton win no matter what information they leaked to harm her and make our democratic process look weak. No bonuses over here, either.

Perhaps this apparent Russian indecision on what Trump means for Russia will carry us through a dangerous transition period as Russia decides to wait and see.

UPDATE: I think I can safely say that whatever debates the Russians have been having, they now do not consider Trump to be someone who will make Russia-American relations great again:

Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman who has made caustic rhetoric and sarcastic social-media posts a staple of her public outreach, has an idea whom U.S. President-elect Donald Trump can thank for his stunning victory over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton: "the Jews."

So there you go.