As the whole “Russian connection” drama plays out in Washington, D.C., we might want to take a step back and look at the larger picture. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, Russia has adopted a new foreign policy strategy that is far less reliant on military aggression and far more about covert, subversive activities. The new tools of Russian expansionism are computer hackers, powerful, wealthy oligarchs aligned with Putin and alliances with western alt-right media outlets and politicians.
Of course, you can hardly keep track of the Trump administration players whose Russian connections have been exposed, but the Russian strategy is bearing fruit in Europe, as well. Just today, we learned that French far-right leader Marine Le Pen met with Russian diplomats in Moscow just months before the French presidential election. Russian agents and oligarchs are clearly stoking the flames of nationalism and assisting far-right politicians in their quest for power.
And Russia’s tactics aren’t always highly sophisticated. Good old fashioned blackmail still works, and there are hints and leaks that western politicians, including Donald Trump, have been caught in very compromising situations while guests of the Motherland. Little sets Putin’s government apart from an organized crime ring, as evidenced by political critics and Trump enemies experiencing tragic “accidents” before they are able to spill the beans.
Like every organized crime web, the threads all lead to money. Rachel Maddow has done an exemplary job of putting together the pieces of the Trump/Russia money connections that have stretched back years, and Moscow is today funneling money to nationalist candidates and organizations throughout Europe and the U.S. Media organizations like Breitbart and Alex Jones’ Info Wars are being investigated by the FBI for their possible relationships with Russian agents.
What is Russia’s end game in all of this? It doesn’t take a PhD in international affairs to see that helping countries elect leaders sympathetic to Putin is in the best interest of Russia. Having Western politicians in your pocket is like having money in the bank. There are, however, also great risks to this strategy. Trump is a dangerously unhinged character and a destabilizing force in America. Russia managed to get it’s man into the White House, but he is such a loose cannon that the possibility of this presidency crashing and burning have become very real, and this would not be in Putin’s best interests.