Since December of last year, there have been rumors circulating from the Democratic Party, the Mainstream Media, and elements of the intelligence community indicating that the Russians “hacked” the U.S. election to favor Donald Trump. Of course, the FBI has repeatedly cleared President Trump of any improper relationship with the Russians. They have also recently cleared former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn of any wrongdoing vis-a-vis the Russians. Between the endless allegations of impropriety being lobbed against the Trump Administration and the incredible pace at which the Trump Administration has been enacting pivotal foreign policy, uncertainty and confusion has set in among the world’s great powers.
The Left believed that General Flynn was a friend of Russia due to the fact that he once appeared alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at a gala for the Kremlin-backed Russian news service, RT. The existence of this picture allowed for the American Left to claim that General Flynn was a Russian agent of influence. The case was made that Flynn was the physical connection between Trump himself and Vladimir Putin. Of course, this was not true. Indeed, having personally heard General Flynn speak behind closed doors, I can assert that he was absolutely not a friend of Vladimir Putin. Rather, as Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz recently argued, it is likely that Flynn simply wanted to use Russia to fight jihadists. In order to achieve this, Flynn and Trump believed they needed more amicable relations with Russia.
The removal of Flynn from the White House created unintended uncertainty in an environment of strategic uncertainty crafted by the White House. Whereas keeping China off-balance as to whether or not America will uphold the “One-China” Policy is a good thing for the U.S., the kind of political uncertainty that accompanied Flynn’s removal created a vulnerability that the Trump opponents could exploit. This was an unintended uncertainty.
The Mainstream Media capitalized on this unintended uncertainty, and fanned the flames still further (obviously looking for another scalp to claim). Compounding this was the sudden appearance of a Russian spy ship off of the American East Coast. The media and the Left insisted that this was a signal from the Putin regime that they were displeased with the removal of “their man” in the Trump National Security Council, Mike Flynn.
But, I disagree.
Any intelligence analyst will tell you that most political leaders the world over get a majority of their intelligence from the least likeliest places. No, not some wizard spy in a fedora down in a bunker somewhere. Quite the contrary, in fact. Many political leaders glean a majority of their intelligence from major Western (specifically, American) newspapers.
I’ll let this infamous scene from Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Atomic Bomb explain the logic (specifically, the exchange between the Soviet ambassador and the American president):
This scene is funny because it has a terrifying degree of truth to it: many foreign governments believe that the stories placed in the U.S. media represents the intentions of the government. They have no comprehension that the U.S. media, despite being overwhelmingly Leftist in their political orientation, is independent of the U.S. government (how could foreign leaders believe this when the media in so many countries around the world are owned and operated by their governments?)
To complicate matters, Vladimir Putin is not only a purveyor of major conspiracy theories and “Fake News” stories, but he is also a consumer of them. Like his mentor, Yuri Andropov, Putin believes that he can outmaneuver his adversaries, he assumes the worst of the West, and he believes that just about everyone around him is an enemy. So, when the media and leading political figures in the U.S. are constantly blaming Russia for their political woes; when the previous administration is slapping sanctions on the Russians for “hacking” the election, it’s not surprising that Mr. Putin and his countrymen go on alert.
With the sudden appearance of the Russian spy ship off of the American East Coast, the media’s immediate conclusion was that Putin was worried. The Left drew connections between that event and the removal of Flynn, when none, I believe, actually existed. According to the Left and their allies in the media, Putin was concerned that the jig was up and that the Russian “hack” of the election would be uncovered!
Well, they might be right. However, it could also be that Putin was simply trying to fill intelligence gaps, as former NSA analyst, Malcom Nance, recently suggested in an episode of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. After all, President Obama had correctly expelled a large group of what were believed to have been Russian intelligence operatives living in America. In so doing, Russia may have lost valuable intelligence collection capabilities on the U.S. military. These are some of the conventional theories being bandied about right now.
But, you don’t read The Weichert Report for conventional wisdom. Here’s an unconventional question: What if Putin deployed the spy ship because he had no idea what the heck was going on in America? What if all of the chaos in America’s domestic political system was causing dangerous uncertainty in Putin’s eyes? What if deploying the spy ship was an attempt to ascertain American intentions at such a confusing time?
Think about it: for over a year, the media has been overwhelmingly anti-Russian. The Left has been finding Russians under every bed. Meanwhile, the Republicans on the Hill have been looking for a reason to go all John McCain and to let slip the dogs of war! These forces seemed to be prevailing in their bid to push Trump into a decidedly Russophobic stance. Such elements likely wanted to ensure that President Trump’s greatest policy assets: unpredictability and flexibility (in order to extract a “winning deal” from the Russians) would have been removed. Trump’s political opponents want to box the Trump Administration in. While this would certainly make life easier for President Trump (from a political standpoint), it would not necessarily be the most prudent course of action from a policy angle.
With the removal of Flynn, there is a chance that the Russian spy ship was deployed to detect American military movements. Specifically, they could have been placed near our naval bases along the East Coast in order to detect any masses of ships leaving harbor unscheduled (such a move might indicate the U.S. was going on a war footing). It’s also possible that this ship was attempting to analyze communications coming to and from these highly sensitive military bases, in order to determine if there was a higher output of traffic, which might indicate that the U.S. was preparing for a major military move (possibly against Russia). Essentially, this might have been a genuine–albeit sloppy, poorly timed–fact-finding mission. The Russians could have just been trying to discern American intentions.
There’s something else also: President Putin is the ultimate troll. He is fully aware that Russia is a broken state and, while he remains steadfastly committed to rehabilitating the country at all costs (and has been shockingly successful in many ways), he likely knows the odds are in his disfavor. To use a colloquialism: Putin is running a full house off of a pair. Poor leadership in the West, Putin’s sheer will power, and blind luck have conspired these last few years to hand Putin a series of unlikely geopolitical victories. With Trump being so unpredictable and so consistently hawkish–the most hawkish, as Mr. Trump would claim–Putin likely realizes that the days of getting his way are coming to a close.
So, rather than the deployment of this spy ship to America’s east coast being connected to the removal of Flynn; rather than this being a hapless fact-finding mission in the midst of confusion about American intentions, this could just be Putin tweaking America. Put yourself in their shoes: our country’s political system and media apparatus is in complete free fall. We’ve not seen chaos like this in decades. The longer the chaos reigns, the more vociferous that Trump’s opponents on the Left and in media become, the more distracted the Trump Administration is. The more distracted by domestic politics that Trump becomes, the less likely it is that he will be able to respond fully to international events.
I am reminded of what one of my mentors once told me. This man was a decades-long employee of the American intelligence community. He was a leading Sovietologist and an expert on all things Russian. During the contentious 2016 presidential election, he and I met for coffee. When the topic of politics came up, he told me that he knew for a fact that several leading Russians–including, he believed, Putin himself–were worried about the rise of Donald Trump.
Why? Because Trump is so unpredictable.
You see, with a Hillary Clinton or a Jeb Bush, their patterns and proclivities are well known to the Russians. What’s more, the Russians are also familiar with the people such presidents would have surrounded themselves with. Thus, Putin would know how far he could get with either Hillary Clinton or a more conventional Republican candidate, like Jeb Bush.
On the other hand, Donald Trump was not an ideologue. He tended to confound his opponents and the world. Whereas Putin likely knew how Hillary Clinton would respond to a Russian annexation of Eastern Ukraine, or how a President Jeb Bush would react to increases in Russian military operations in Syria, he could not be quite certain how a President Trump would react to either event.
Now that he is President of the United States, Donald Trump has been even more unpredictable. Putin is likely concerned about overturning the apple cart by assuming too much about how Trump will react. Mr. Putin is fully aware that America has the capacity to easily rebuff the advances that he’s made globally the last several years. Consequently, he could just be trolling America.
Let’s face it, thanks to the Left’s inability to accept the outcome of the 2016 election, and the media’s unwillingness to adapt to a new environment where it has actual competition from new media sources, America looks insane to the world right now. Moreover, Russian intelligence capabilities are great, but they are not omnipotent (despite what Vladimir Putin would have you believe).
Putin likely has no idea what’s going to happen next. For a control-freak like Vladimir Putin this is a terrible scenario. But, he does understand that the longer he can sow confusion within the United States, the more bogged down that Trump can be with internal discord, the less effective that the Trump Administration will be on the world stage. A more distracted America globally is a good thing for Russian foreign policy. This is likely Putin’s only play against America, since Barack Obama is no longer in charge.
Now, look, there is a small chance that the media is right about the Trump-Flynn-Russian connection. Yet, it does strain credulity. Having said that, we should have little doubt that Putin’s government harbors ill-will toward the United States. What’s more, we should recognize that Russia is not America’s friend in any sense of the word. The term “frenemy” is a much more apt term for describing the historical Russo-American relationship. Unfortunately, it would seem that Russia and the U.S. are to be–in general–at loggerheads with each other on several critical issues. Still, that does not mean that Russia is responsible for every bad thing that happens either to the American Left or around the world.
Given the size and power of Russia, it is important to keep a clear mind and allow for cooler heads to prevail, as John F. Kennedy did with Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Believe me, war with Russia is not worth it. We must also keep in mind that there is a high degree of probability that Russian actions along America’s east coast are not what the media is making them out to be. They are either the result of an absurdly timed fact-finding mission attempting to ascertain American intentions, or they are the work of Russia trolling a dysfunctional United States.
All in all, the recent increase of tensions with Russia (Russian actions in Syria and the Ukraine notwithstanding) are largely the fault of the American media and the American Left. It’s time that we all recognize that and ensure that these forces within the U.S. stop such irresponsible, mindlessly partisan behavior. It’s for the good of the country…and for world peace.
In any event, the best response is strength and resolve in the face of Russian threats. In order to do that, the American Left needs to accept the election results and move on. And, the Mainstream Media needs to, I don’t know, start reporting actual news instead of ginning up controversy for ratings.