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writing for godot

Is Donald Trump Right about Russia?

Written by Thomas Magstadt   
Friday, 03 August 2018 06:22

Donald Trump is right about Russia—right, that is, when he asserts that Russia did not meddle in the U.S. elections in 2016.  Vladimir Putin and his cyber war team did, of course, but it’s only fair to make a distinction between Russia and Putin, the absolute dictator who stands astride Russia’s political system.

He’s dead wrong about Vladimir Putin.

Russia Isn’t The Problem, Putin Is

The notion that Russia is our natural enemy is a myth rooted in the mindset and opposing ideologies that framed the Cold War.  A cursory glance at the map of the world is enough to see that history and geopolitics have not condemned Russia and the United States to the kind of Great Power enmities and rivalries (between Germany and France in Europe or China and Japan in Asia) that reshaped world history in the last century.


I have been watching Russia for more than a half century, since earning a doctorate in international studies and specializing in Russian and East European politics.  My mentors included Herbert S. Dinerstein (War and the Soviet Union; The Making of a Missile Crisis: October 1962) and Helmut Sonnenfeldt (“Kissinger’s Kissinger”).  Over the years, I gained a good deal of firsthand experience, visiting and spending extended periods in Russia (formerly the USSR) many times in various roles over some four decades during and after the Cold War.

Oddly, I have never visited Russia as a sight-seeing tourist on a pleasure trip, although I would like to do that before I die.  That probably will not happen unless I outlive Vladimir Putin.  Why will made clear in what follows.

Russia’s Nervous Neighbors

I lived in the Czech Republic during much of the decade after the collapse of Communism.  The memory of Soviet rule was still fresh but the euphoria of the Velvet Revolution was soon dampened by the Velvet Divorce between Czechs and Slovaks.  In Prague, I quickly discovered that although far more Czechs spoke some Russian than any English, it was best not to speak Russian.  I was not surprised:  I had encountered the same anti-Russian sentiments in Warsaw a decade earlier when Poland was still a Soviet “satellite state”.

Czechs distaste for all things Russian is understandable for reasons related to history, geography, and politics.  The Stalinist show trials in the early 50s and Moscow’s armed intervention against the popular uprising known as the Prague Spring in 1968 are but two reasons, among many, for bad blood between Czechs and Russians.

No Ordinary Tyrant

Putin is no ordinary tyrant.  He puts me in mind of Russia’s most ruthless rulers.  Russia, of course, has a history of rule by monstrous autocrats of whom Ivan the Terrible is only the most infamous.  For his part, Stalin may or may not have been nuts, but he was a certifiably paranoid mass murderer.

As a remorseless wielder of absolute power, Putin stands in stark contrast to Ivan the Terrible who was putatively insane and who bludgeoned his son to death in a fit of rage, and Stalin who was indiscriminate in his blood purges.

Putin is cold and calculating, the opposite of irrational or deranged.  His adeptness in developing and deploying far more sophisticated methods of repression, disinformation, and subversion than his predecessors possessed means that he can control Russia without the mass killings and pogroms of the past.

Make no mistake:  Putin abhors constitutional norms, the rule of law, and everything the Western World associates with the word “democracy”.  Far from allowing the free speech or independent news media guaranteed in Russia’s post-Communist constitution—Putin enforces a strict code of silence relative to any forms of criticism or dissent that might prove efficacious.  Any such opposition invites state-sanctioned violence on an escalating scale—harassment, savage beatings, imprisonment, and, if and when all else fails, death by mafia-style assassination.

Putin’s Hit List:  Journalists & Critics

Take the case of Anna Politkovskaya, the journalist and human-rights activist who was murdered in a gangland-style attack in the lobby of her apartment building in 2006.  And who can forget the photo of Alexander Litvinenko (R.I.P) lying on his death bed in a London hospital in November 2006.  The cause of death was acute radiation syndrome (ARS) resulting from a lethal polonium-210 poison attack.  It’s a horrible way to die.  Slow painful, agonizing.

Litvinenko was a former officer of the FSB and KGB who dared to place himself in opposition to Vladimir Putin.  Following a lengthy investigation, Scotland Yard concluded “in one way or another the Russian state is involved in Litvinenko’s murder”.

In early 2015, Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime and Russia’s most high-profile and popular Putin critic, was shot four times in the back as he walked across a bridge in the heart of Moscow not 100 yards from the Kremlin walls.   Denis Voronenkov was assassinated on a street in Kiev in March 2017.  The murder victim was a former Russian Communist Party member who, having dared to oppose Putin, fled Russia in 2016.

In March of this year, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia,  were poisoned in the UK with a made-in-Russia nerve agent called Novichok, reputed to be the deadliest ever made.  He is a former Russian military intelligence (GRU) officer who became a double agent for the UK’s MI6.  He was arrested in December 2004 on charges of high treason and sentenced to 13 years in prison.  Released in 2010 as part of a spy swap, Skripal settled in the UK.

Who would (or could) contrive to murder Sergei Skripal in this gruesome manner and what would be the motive?

"After settling in England…Skripal did not remain idle. He traveled widely, offering briefings on Russian spycraft to foreign intelligence agencies in the Czech Republic, Estonia and possibly others. In one meeting with Czech officials in 2012, he explained to his former foes the intricacies of G.R.U. operations…several Russian diplomats were kicked out of the Czech Republic…." (Michael Schwirtz and Eric Schmitt, Novichok Was in a Perfume Bottle, Victim Says,” The New York Times, July 25, 2018)

There are numerous other cases of Putin critics who died sudden, violent, and suspicious deaths.  All these victims have one thing in common—they have all crossed swords with Vladimir Putin and paid the supreme price.

Putin's Other Hit List:  Western-Style Democracy

Putin is a tyrant with a sadistic streak.  He has repeatedly demonstrated that he will do whatever it takes to prevail over his adversaries at home and abroad.

Donald Trump either has no clue who or what he is dealing with or he is blindly self-deluded.  Meanwhile, the Kremlin ruler he cozies up to, and a man who has made a mockery of Russia’s elections, is using his KGB-honed tradecraft to undermine and discredit democratic elections everywhere, but, above all, its birthplace: the West. your social media marketing partner


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We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

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Adapt and overcome.

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Founder, Reader Supported News

+1 # RICHARDKANE.Philadelphia 2018-08-05 17:43
There's much meddling in all directions, by a number of countries. Perhaps if Netanyahu’s demand that Americans vote for Hillary not Obama had succeeded we would remember more, like US demands Latin Americans remember when the US ordered them to change governments.

Britain lobbied heavily during the Irish conflict, but when it came to Hillary and Trump, Europeans and others who preferred her, just assumed she would win. However when it comes to Trump if I google, or if anyone DuckDuckGo(es):
The Guardian
Donald Trump Jr met Gulf states emissary offering election help – report
(The Guardian, NY Times reports Aug 2016 meeting at Trump Tower)
The link that didn't work after copied and pasted is:

In this report, The Saudis, a Gulf State Emissary, an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation, and the former founder of Blackwater seeming to be more Israeli than an American company, all conspired to get Trump elected. I suspect other counties elsewhere like the Philippians helped as well.

PS if the Guardian link does now work, note: it didn't work when I posted it in

Trump and Russia don't say "Everyone does it". Stop risking World War III to oppose Trump. Note Trump betraying his heavy Haitian-America n support and his promise to help get cheap drugs from Canada.
0 # laborequalswealth 2018-08-19 12:36
Does this sound like another CIA plant story or what? So Putin treats people like shit. WE are bombing, killing and torturing people all over the fucking world.

Try to link to the author's name. You can't. Access is denied. But here's a blub I found by Googling his name: "Thomas M. Magstadt has taught at the Air War College, Augustana College, University of Nebraska at Kearney, and University of Missouri–Kansas City. He has worked for the federal government as an intelligence analyst, and was a Fulbright Lecturer in the Czech Republic."

"Air War College"? "Intelligence analyst"? Don't we mean C.I.A or N.S.A?

The MIC is hysterical that peace might break out.

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