Why Does Putin Want Trump’s Kleptocracy?
Friday’s bombshell CIA announcement that Russian interference in the US election was specifically designed to elect Trump immediately set the Washington Post‘s comments section ablaze with the Russian troll army.
“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over another, to help Trump get elected,” said the senior US official briefed on the intelligence presentation made to US senators. “That’s the consensus view.”
Kleptocracies Support Russia in Ukraine
Putin’s Russia is a corrupt despot-ruled kleptocracy, according to Russian scholar Karen Dawisha. So there would be a natural affinity. But Russia faces very hard times as a result of its military intervention in the Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.
Tough international sanctions imposed in response — together with the catastrophic drop in oil prices that hit all the petro-states very hard — have almost halved Russia’s GDP since 2014.
Only other kleptocracies and despot-ruled nations (North Korea, Syria, and Cuba) and fellow petro-states (Nicaragua and Venezuela) recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Trump fought to insert similar support into the GOP platform.
Like the rest of the world, Clinton opposed these Russian military adventures.
Russia’s Oil Shocks — Financial Catastrophe
Russia’s oil wealth is concentrated among relatively few oil-rich billionaires.
Russia’s military adventures in former Soviet-held nation Ukraine (particularly, Crimea) resulted in international sanctions which also deprived the oil industry of technology and expertise, froze the bank assets of some of its fleeing oiligarchs, and sharply curbed lending by Western financial institutions to Russia.
About 70% of Russia’s GDP is ultimately dependent on foreign income from the oil industry, according to Andrei Movchan, an associate at the Carnegie Center in Moscow.
Russia needs a $100 a barrel oil price, but world oil prices went to $30. Gazprom lost 86% of its 2014 net income and investors fled, causing the ruble to drop. Prices rose by more than 15%, and food prices rose even higher.
By 2015, Standard & Poor’s lowered Russia’s credit rating to junk status, and by 2016, 2,000 oil millionaires had fled the country.
Still, the idea that the Kremlin attempted to sabotage the US elections using hacked and leaked emails seemed a bit out in left field.
Surely Russian Psy-Ops is So 50 Years Ago? Not Really.
Hacked and Leaked Emails with “Shocking Revelations” that “Raised Questions”
In October, 17 US intelligence agencies found evidence of hacks and email leaks tied to the Kremlin. The aim appeared to be sowing distrust in the DNC and Democratic Party.
“Such activity is not new to Moscow,” said Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, in a statement. the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there.”
(The Kremlin also hacked the RNC, but has not revealed the results.)
Russia Behind a Similar “Expose!” of Climate Scientists’ Emails in 2009
In 2009, Russia similarly hacked into and leaked selections from 13 years of casual email exchanges between climate scientists in an attempt to derail COP15 in a highly sophisticated and politically motivated operation guided by the Russian Secret Services.
Back then, just as with today’s supposed Clinton email scandal, the western media fell for, or manufactured outrage over, these supposed revelations, prompting independent reviews of the entire trove of emails by the EPA, the NSF, the University of East Anglia, and Penn State University.
All the investigations found no evidence of climate scientists fabricating science.
Nevertheless, Russia’s propagation of fabricated evidence of “hiding the decline” and so on in the data still reverberates through the denier industry and likely is behind uncertainty about the science among lo-info voters even today.
Similarly, despite the lack of actual evidence of any crime, a similar cloud of non-specified distrust now affects public opinion of a Democratic candidate.
Trump Opposes Climate Protection
Trump clearly has an “open mind” to your crazy uncle’s wildest conspiracy theories:
TRUMP: I do have an open mind. And we’ve had storms always, Arthur.
SULZBERGER: Not like this.
TRUMP: You know the hottest day ever was in 1890-something, 98. You know, you can make lots of cases for different views. I have a totally open mind. My uncle… they say they have science on one side but then they also have those horrible emails that were sent between the scientists. Where was that, in Geneva or wherever five years ago? Terrible.
In this dismissal of scientific evidence, Trump is like the rest of the GOP, the only political party on the planet openly opposing action to protect earth’s future civilization from climate ruin.
Like other Democrats, Clinton supported advancing American leadership in climate protection.
Russia’s Oil Oligarchs would Benefit from a Ruined Climate
Russia has huge oil and gas reserves stowed under permafrost in the remote far North. Russia’s permafrost will melt if the climate warms, making Russia’s vast oil reserves accessible for the first time.
Russian oil output rivals Saudi Arabia at more than 10 million barrels per day. Its economy depends on fossil fuel. Russia is the world’s fifth-largest greenhouse gas emitter, despite its small GDP of only $2 trillion, compared to the $17 trillion US GDP.
Russia has not advanced any alternative energy source. Coal, petroleum, and natural gas account for approximately 91% of its energy consumption, according to the EIA. Less than 1% of its electricity is generated by renewables.
Like other despot-ruled petro-states, Russia has not invested in innovation and a diverse economy.
What’s Good for Putin is Good for ExxonMobil
Multinational oil company ExxonMobil had to discontinue an oil project in Russia’s far North because of the US sanctions against Russia for annexing Crimea and intervening in Ukraine.
Trump just declared ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson the winner of Secretary of State position in his nightmarish anti-climate reality show, after first trotting out an endless parade of putative candidates with seemingly random alternate views. The rest of his environmental cabinet is similarly oil-soaked.
So, yeah. It’s just about oil, as it usually is with Republican candidates.
(But for the Putin kleptocracy, Trump’s evident corruption is a bonus)
Image Credit: Word cloud by @JamesFallows