Not Exactly a Russia Hawk

On the other hand, our apparent next Secretary of State does have extensive experience working closely with Russia on oil and gas contracts. He has shown himself capable of getting things done with Putin's government, in other words.

In the wake of yesterday's revelations that Russian hacking was aimed at benefiting the Trump campaign, I suppose the appointment of someone with close business ties to Russia must be troubling to Trump's critics. On the other hand, it nicely explains why Russia would have supported him against Clinton. Clinton's stated intent was to throw up a No Fly Zone in Syria that would have had American warplanes flying against Russian ones, the very next step away from war. Trump, like this new Secretary of State nominee, thinks of Russia first and foremost as a business partner.

Why would Russia try to put its finger on the scale of America's election? This is why. It is, from the perspective of statecraft, quite a sharp set of moves: for the cheap price of some influence operations, they avoided the immediate risk of a hot war with the United States, and gained an opportunity to advance their business interests in a more favorable environment.

I do not take seriously the suggestion that Trump or his new nominee are Russian pawns -- but they don't have to be. It was a good move for Russia if they are just not quite so eager to start a new war, and interested instead in economic development. The fact that both men have extensive business interests in Russia also gives the Russians levers to work against them (which is one reason Trump really should put his stuff in a blind trust, though I doubt that he will -- I expect him to pass the business to his children, where it will still serve Russia' interests). You don't need to bribe them or suborn them. You just give them reasons not to want to fight, because there's so much to gain by not fighting.

Putin is a vicious man, but he's also a very smart one. Russia has a weak position but he has played it excellently. Without in any sense excusing his acts of tyranny, it is easy to admire his skill. I wonder if anyone on our team is going to be as good at this game, or if we even have anyone who sees it as a game of strategy in the same way.


Dad29 said...

In the wake of yesterday's revelations that Russian hacking was aimed at benefiting the Trump campaign

...which were made by a political hack, who is supervised by a nincompoop President that Putin ran rings around for entertainment....

I'm no fan of The Bear, but I think there's a lot less here than meets the smell test.

Anonymous said...

What Dad29 Said. Although it would be absolutely delicious if a search turned up that indeed, the Russians hacked machines that had already been hacked by the Democrats in order to skew the vote toward D candidates, and that's how they knew that something odd was going on.


Grim said...

I think the leaked CIA assessment -- that Russia's acts strongly suggest a desire to see Trump and not Clinton win -- is perfectly probable. Indeed, I came to the same conclusion independently in June.

But it's also perfectly plausible why Clinton would be someone they'd be especially concerned about, given her suggested Syria policy. At best they'd be forced to back down on a major set of strategic gains they'd committed large resources to since the summer before last. At worst, one of those Russian warplanes and one of those American warplanes would get sideways, and we could end up with a nuclear exchange in the first few weeks of a Clinton presidency.

Their preference for Trump is more than adequately explained by obvious Russian state interests, in other words.

Texan99 said...

I remain relatively uninterested in the motives or identity of people who released inarguably true information to the American public. Even if I assume that the WaPo's wildest fantasies are the literal truth, I'm not getting the severe outrage over the disclosure of the DNC emails. Now, if Russians hacked election machines, that's a different matter. I've long feared that our election machines are extremely vulnerable, and have been incredibly frustrated that it's hard to find anyone who's concerned enough to take reasonable steps to address the problem. The idea that this story, if true, is some kind of bad press for Trump absolutely stupefies me, unless the theory is that he was complicit. Bizarre story all around.

Eric Blair said...

Fake news.

jaed said...

Trump really should put his stuff in a blind trust

It wouldn't help in his case, because his holdings are recognizable brand names. The point of a blind trust is that the principal won't know what he has, and therefore won't be tempted to (or be portrayed as) shaping policy to favor his own holdings. But Trump knows what he owns, and if the trustee sold, say, his interest in Trump Tower, it would be big news. He can't escape the knowledge via a blind trust.

Ymar Sakar said...

That's a hilarious pseudo pick for SOS, Grim.

It's like people thought Trum was going to be an outsider and trash politics as usual.

At least crony capitalist robber barons can get profits. The Germans and French had the same argument when dealing with Saddam Hussein.