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They spread the information they filched through friendly outlets such as WikiLeaks, to devastating effect. In the same way that Russians overestimate America, seeing it as an all-powerful orchestrator of global political developments, Americans project their own fears onto Russia, a country that is a paradox of deftness, might, and profound weakness—unshakably steady, yet somehow always teetering on the verge of collapse. Like America, it is hostage to its peculiar history, tormented by its ghosts.
None of these factors obviates the dangers Russia poses; rather, each gives them shape. Both Putin and his country are aging, declining—but the insecurities of decline present their own risks to America. The United States intelligence community is unanimous in its assessment not only that Russians interfered in the U.
And it is classically Putin, and classically Russian: using daring aggression to mask weakness, to avenge deep resentments, and, at all costs, to survive. The more immediate is how the Kremlin, despite its limitations, pulled off one of the greatest acts of political sabotage in modern history, turning American democracy against itself. And the more important—for Americans, anyway—is what might still be in store, and how far an emboldened Vladimir Putin is prepared to go in order to get what he wants.
People were very upset about the Panama Papers. The firm has denied any wrongdoing. Roldugin has denied any wrongdoing, but the Kremlin was furious about the revelation. Given the secrecy and timing of this meeting, Soldatov believes it was then that Putin gave the signal to retaliate.
At each moment, the people who were doing this were filled with excitement over how well it was going, and that success pushed them to go even further. Alperovitch and his team saw that there had been two groups of hackers, which they believed came from two different Russian security agencies. They gave them two different monikers: Fancy Bear, from military intelligence, and Cozy Bear, from either foreign intelligence or the FSB.
American officials noticed the same messy and amorphous behavior as the summer of wore on. Obama warned Putin against election meddling, but did not sanction Russia before Election Day—Hillary Clinton, he believed, would handle Putin after she won.
The bickering, opportunism, and lack of cooperation seemed to the Obama administration, at least initially, like the same old story. A report published in January by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence assessing Russian involvement in the election noted that in , a ring of 10 Russian spies, the most famous of whom was the fiery-haired Anna Chapman, had been in the U.
Chapman was arrested in , and she and her compatriots were deported in a dramatic spy exchange. The Obama administration seemed to be expecting something similar early in The dumps of hacked data and the churn of false stories about Clinton seemed less troubling, and also harder to combat without looking political.
If the White House pushed too hard, the Russians might dump even more stolen documents. Who knew what else they had? Nevertheless, with just a month to go until the election, the Obama administration took the extraordinary step of alerting the public.
But at 4 p. Both the media and the Clinton campaign focused almost exclusively on the explosive tape, not the intelligence-community statement. Even if the public notice went unheeded, the Obama administration felt that the Russians had heard its warnings behind the scenes. According to Soldatov and two former Obama-administration officials, Moscow seemed to have backed off its probes of U. But the leaks and bogus news stories never stopped.
Obama feared that going public with anything more would look like he was putting his thumb on the scale for Clinton. And he was sure that she would win anyway—then deal with the Russians once she took office.
The Washington Post reported this spring on a memo, seemingly from Russian intelligence, that had been obtained by an FBI source during the presidential campaign. He said he would bring no charges, but criticized Clinton sharply. The document, the article noted, was a suspected Russian forgery.
A forgery, a couple of groups of hackers, and a drip of well-timed leaks were all it took to throw American politics into chaos. Whether and to what extent the Trump campaign was complicit in the Russian efforts is the subject of active inquiries today.
This point is lost on many Americans: The subversion of the election was as much a product of improvisation and entropy as it was of long-range vision.
What makes Putin effective, what makes him dangerous, is not strategic brilliance but a tactical flexibility and adaptability—a willingness to experiment, to disrupt, and to take big risks. He knows where he wants to end up, he plans the first few moves, and then he figures out the rest later. People ask if he plays chess or checkers. He has a higher acceptance of risk.
Think about it. The election interference—that was pretty risky, what he did. So has his political situation—the need to take ever larger foreign risks to shore up support at home, as the economy has struggled. These pressures have not abated; if anything, they have accelerated in recent years.
The History When it is snowing, as it was on this spring afternoon, the gray crags of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations blend into the low-slung, steely sky. This is where the Soviet state once minted its diplomats and spies. Here they mastered the nuances of the world before stepping out into it.
Migranyan spent much of the past decade in New York, where he ran the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, a Russian think tank reported to have ties to the Russian foreign ministry. Among his old classmates is Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister, whom he still counts as a friend. Putin, still a painfully awkward speaker at the time, was seven years into his now nearly two-decade reign. Eighteen years prior, in , he had been a KGB officer stationed in Dresden, East Germany, shoveling sensitive documents into a furnace as protesters gathered outside and the Berlin Wall crumbled.
Not long after that, the Soviet Union was dead and buried, and the world seemed to have come to a consensus: The Soviet approach to politics—violent, undemocratic—was wrong, even evil. The Western liberal order was a better and more moral form of government.
Vladimir Putin, speaking at the Munich Conference on Security Policy, where he dissented sharply from the post—Cold War ideological order. Bush, hoping to impress on him that they were now allies in the struggle against terrorism.
He tried to be helpful in Afghanistan.
But in , Bush ignored his objections to the invasion of Iraq, going around the United Nations Security Council, where Russia has veto power. But to Putin, it was something more: Under the guise of promoting democracy and human rights, Washington had returned to its Cold War—era policy of deposing and installing foreign leaders.
Even the open use of military force was now fair game. In , speaking to the representatives and defenders of the Western order, Putin officially registered his dissent. Nonetheless, Putin has spent the decade since that speech making sure that the United States can never again unilaterally maneuver without encountering friction—and, most important, that it can never, ever depose him.
Russia had been written off!
And Putin committed a mortal sin in Munich: He told the truth. The U. American consultants had engineered painful post-Soviet market reforms, enriching themselves all the while, and had helped elect the enfeebled and unpopular Yeltsin to a second term in Some of those same NGOs had ties to the so-called color revolutions, which toppled governments in former Soviet republics and replaced them with democratic regimes friendly to the West.
Through this prism, it is not irrational to believe that the U. He feared the Americans would come for him next. In , the Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak stepped down following protests the U. Then there was Libya. The first was the nato intervention in Libya, which led, ultimately, to the ousting and gruesome lynching of the Libyan dictator, Muammar Qaddafi. He is said to have watched the video of the killing over and over. The second moment was in November , when young Ukrainians came out onto the Maidan—Independence Square—in the capital, Kiev, to protest then-President Viktor Yanukovych pulling out of an economic agreement with the European Union under pressure from Putin.
The demonstrators stayed all winter, until the police opened fire on them, killing some people. The next day, February 21, , Yanukovych signed a political-reconciliation plan, brokered by Russia, America, and the EU, but that night he fled the capital. To Putin, it was clear what had happened: America had toppled his closest ally, in a country he regarded as an extension of Russia itself.
Before long, it has a surprising effect on Carly Beth, too. She tries to take it off. Choose other sales representative. All Rights Reserved. Skip to main content. ListBuilder Search books, manage lists and send your order online. Contact Us Contact us via email, phone calls or online forms.
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