Tag: russia

The GOP Is Now The Party Of Putin

"Russian propaganda has made its way into the United States, unfortunately, and it's infected a good chunk of my party's base." That acknowledgement from Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was echoed a few days later by Ohio Rep. Michael Turner, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. "To the extent that this propaganda takes hold, it makes it more difficult for us to really see this as an authoritarian versus democracy battle."

It has been two months since the Senate passed, by 70-29 (including 22 Republicans), a $95 billion foreign aid bill that included $60 billion for Ukraine. The Republican-controlled House, by contrast, has been paralyzed. This week, Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that Ukraine will lose the war if the aid is not approved.

The Republican party is now poised to let a brave, democratic ally be defeated by the power that the last GOP presidential nominee save one called "without question, our No. 1 geopolitical foe." One member of Congress has sworn to introduce a resolution to vacate the chair if the House speaker puts aid for Ukraine on the floor, and the entertainment wing of conservatism — most egregiously Tucker Carlson — has gone into full truckling mode toward the ex-KGB colonel in the Kremlin.

It's worth exploring how the Republican party, the party of "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," became the party that now credulously traffics in blatant Russian disinformation while it flirts with betraying an important ally — along with all of its principles.

Trump's particular preferences and ego needs play a starring role in the GOP's devolution. Cast your minds back to 2016 and the revelation that the Russians had hacked the Democratic National Committee. To rebut this damaging development, Fox News conjurers got busy inventing a tale about CrowdStrike, the company that documented the hack, alleging that the servers had been mysteriously moved to Ukraine so that the FBI could not examine them. Trump raised the CrowdStrike issue in his infamous call with Zelenskyy.

This was bonkers. As the Mueller report made clear, the FBI did get all the data regarding the DNC hack. There was never a shred of evidence that the servers were moved to Ukraine, and in any case physical control of the servers was unnecessary. But what was Zelensky supposed to say? He promised to look into it just as a courtier to a mad king will say, "Yes, your majesty, we will look into why your slippers are turning into marshmallows when the sun goes down."

Because Trump regarded any implication that he had received assistance from Russia as impugning his victory, he latched onto the idea (perhaps whispered by Putin himself in one of their many private conversations) that, yes, there had indeed been foreign interference in the election, but it was Ukraine boosting Hillary Clinton, not Russia aiding Trump. Now, it's true that Ukraine's friends reached out to Clinton, but why wouldn't they? Trump's campaign manager was Paul Manafort, a paid agent of Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted pro-Putin Ukrainian leader.

Trump nurtured his misplaced grudge for years. Recall that when Putin launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Trump's initial response was that it was a "genius" move. "You gotta say, that's pretty savvy."

A non-sociopath would say it was raw aggression of the worst kind. A normal Republican of the pre-Trump mold would have been outraged at the attempted rape of a peaceful, democratic neighbor.

Most Republican officeholders are not sociopaths, but they take their marching orders from one and have adjusted their consciences accordingly. The talking point Sen. J.D. Vance and his ilk favor is that they cannot be concerned about Ukraine's border when our southern border is also being invaded. Of course it's absurd to compare immigrants looking for work or safety to tanks, bombs and missiles, but that's what passes for Republican reasoning these days. In any case, it was revealed to be hollow when Biden and the Democrats offered an extremely strict border bill to sweeten aid for Ukraine, and the GOP turned it down flat.

Russia's fingerprints are all over the Republicans' failed attempt to impeach (in all senses of the word) Joe Biden. Their star witness, Alexander Smirnov — who alleged that Hunter and Joe Biden had been paid $5 million in bribes by Burisma — was indicted in February for making false statements. High-ranking Russians appear to be his sources.

Whether the subject is Ukraine, Biden's so-called corruption, or NATO, Putin seems to have pulled off the most successful foreign influence operation in American history. If Trump were being blackmailed by Putin, it's hard to imagine how he would behave any differently. And though it started with Trump, it has not ended there. Putin now wields more power over the GOP than anyone other than Trump. GOP propagandists indulge fictions that even many Russians can see through: Ukraine is governed by Nazis; Russia is a religious, Christian nation; Russia is fighting "wokeness."

Republicans are not so much isolationist as pro-authoritarian. They've made Hungary's Viktor Orban a pin-up, and they mouth Russian disinformation without shame. Putin must be pinching himself.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Intelligence Report Says Kremlin Agents Boosted Republicans In 2022

A newly released intelligence report indicates that the Russian government acted to “denigrate the Democratic Party” ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. The report suggests that Russia acted against Democrats because of President Joe Biden's effectiveness in unifying Western countries and creating support for Ukraine. In the process, Russia took a truly incredible action in which it traded Russian lives to protect Republican votes.

The declassified report, which is heavily redacted, does not give many details about how Russia worked behind the scenes. However, it is clear about the rationale for why both the Russian government and its proxies sought to help Republicans. “While Russian officials most likely recognized that U.S. support for Ukraine was largely bipartisan, Russian influence actors disproportionately targeted the Democratic Party,” the report concludes, “probably because Moscow blames the U.S. president for forging a unified Western alliance and for Kyiv’s continued pro-Western trajectory,

The report also indicates that China and Iran launched efforts to interfere in the election. Neither of those attempts appears to be as strongly partisan as the Russian interference. China reportedly aimed its efforts at affecting the outcome of “a handful of races.” Iran put its efforts behind decreasing confidence in American democracy, election integrity, and support for Israel.

The assessment indicates that efforts to interfere in the election increased when compared to the 2018 midterms, but did not rise to the “comprehensive, whole-of-government” effort that Russia undertook in 2016. It also concludes that a higher level of inference is expected by multiple countries during the 2024 election cycle.

In its efforts, Russia reportedly used themes designed to reduce U.S. support for Ukraine. Interestingly, efforts to shift the outcome of the election included not just establishing fake accounts on social media sites, but included enlistment of commercial PR firms and “payments to influencers.” If those influencers are named in the report, that information is hidden behind the black bars of redactions … but it would be very interesting to know who took Vladimir Putin’s payment to help erode democracy.

The assessment notes that many of the operations don’t involve overtly false reports. Instead, Russia and other foreign governments are using issues that already generate media attention and partisan friction in America—and “amplifying” those “authentic” public narratives.

This is a technique that Russia has employed going back well into the Soviet Union period. Specifically, Russia has long played up issues of racism in the United States to increase political divisions. A Senate report in 2018 showed how Russia uses a two-pronged approach to increase racial tensions by appealing to racism on the right while deflating Democrats’ efforts to organize Black voters. In the 2016 elections, that even included running ads on radio stations with heavily Black audiences to depress turnout for Hillary Clinton.

At the time of the 2022 elections, support for Ukraine was still relatively high, even among most Republicans. However, one of ways Russia worked to change that was through pressing a message that has not been difficult to find in the news. “As the election neared, Russian influence actors amplified questions about whether US aid to Ukraine if the balance in power shifted after the midterms,” the report says.

In what may be the most astonishing connection to Russia’s efforts to influence the election and events on the ground in Ukraine, the report indicates that Russian military officials “proposed delaying the Russian withdrawal from Kherson until after the midterms to avoid giving a named political party a perceived win before the election.”

The report doesn’t indicate whether this plan was carried out. However, Election Day in 2022 was November 8. Russia announced its withdrawal from Kherson on November 9. Considering the information provided, it’s very hard to view this as a coincidence.

During those final days, Russian forces were low on supplies, Ukrainian troops were advancing, and every moment of delay exposed Russian supplies and equipment to destruction. But Russia was willing to take that risk rather than give Democrats a perceived win ahead of the election. That’s how determined they were to play a role in 2022. Considering how Republicans in Congress have completely stalled America’s assistance to Ukraine, the sacrifices Russia made in Kherson may have been their best investment since the illegal, unprovoked invasion began.

The report concludes that no foreign government is currently working to directly attack U.S. election infrastructure. The assessment notes the difficulty of undertaking any such operation in a broad sense because of the differing systems and layers of security. The intelligence agencies also believe that the warnings that the public attention following Russia’s 2016 interference is still helping to secure elections today. “We also judge that since 2016, senior-level US public and private messaging to foreign about the potential costs of tampering with election systems probably has deterred some of this activity by establishing clear redlines.”

Frustratingly, while the report says repeatedly that China “focused more on efforts to support or undermine specific candidates,” details about which candidates came in for Beijing’s attention are hidden behind redactions. However, these candidates reportedly came from both parties and were targeted for “anti-China” statements. Unsurprisingly, China’s actions included leveraging TikTok to spread social media messages.

Iran’s actions were less targeted at specific campaigns than they were reducing faith in democracy and elections while playing up social divisions (this was considered nonpartisan activity, but it would be easy to see such view efforts as objectively pro-Republican). Iran also created false “personas” on social media “masquerading as left-leaning Americans” that endorsed candidates whom Iran viewed as pro-Palestine or anti-Israel.

The 2022 elections were far from the “red wave” that Republicans were expecting. But it did deliver the House to Republicans. How much that is due to Russia’s efforts to undercut the Democratic Party—including sacrificing forces on the ground in Ukraine to prevent what could have been seen as a win for Biden—was not evaluated in the report. But it would certainly be nice to know which “influencers” got a Putin payday.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Trump 'Jokes' About Fleeing To Russia In Bizarre Rant On Georgia Case

Trump 'Jokes' About Fleeing To Russia In Bizarre Rant On Georgia Case

Some Russian media pundits have commented that if former President Donald Trump ever decided to move to Russia, they would be glad to have him. And Trump joked about fleeing to Russia after agreeing to surrender in Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis' case against him.

TheDaily Beast reports that Trump announced he plans to surrender this Thursday, August 24. And the former president followed his announcement with a rant on his Truth Social platform.

Trump, who is facing four separate criminal indictments, wrote, "The failed District Attorney of Fulton County (Atlanta), Fani Willis, insisted on a $200,000 Bond from me. I assume, therefore, that she thought I was a 'flight’ risk – I'd fly far away, maybe to Russia, Russia, Russia, share a gold domed suite with Vladimir, never to be seen or heard from again."

The "Vladimir" Trump was referring to was obviously Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump also wrote, "Would I be able to take my very 'understated' airplane with the gold TRUMP affixed for all to see. Probably not, I'd be much better off flying commercial – I'm sure nobody would recognize me!"

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Vladimir Putin

Fearing War Crimes Arrest, Putin Will Avoid BRICS Summit In South Africa

Russian President Vladimir Putin is skipping next month's BRICS summit in South Africa due to concerns that he could be arrested by the International Criminal Court for war crimes committed in Ukraine, The Guardian reported on Wednesday.

BRICS is the economic alliance between Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa that was established in 2009 to compete with the G7, to which Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States belong.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced after a "number of consultations" with Moscow that "Russia has made it clear that arresting its sitting president would be a declaration of war. It would be inconsistent with our constitution to risk engaging in war with Russia."

Ramaphosa's opposition followed the Democratic Alliance's demands that Putin be taken into custody. Instead, Putin will appear virtually, The Guardian noted.

According to the British Broadcasting Corporation, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov "denied Moscow had told South Africa that arresting its president would mean an act of war, but said it was 'clear to everyone what [that kind of] infringement against the head of the Russian state would mean."

The ICC accused Putin in March of orchestrating a pattern of atrocities throughout Ukraine, including conducting forced locations, the "unlawful deportation" of children to Russia, and executions of civilians.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.