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From (more) news on Russia’s 2016 election interference to a suspect Oracle settlement, it was another standout week of delinquency

Is there enough graft, double-dealing, and self-interested chicanery in the Trump administration to publish this column every week? Only time — and Trump — will tell. (But we feel pretty confident.) Presenting this week’s installment of the Trump Corruption Index.

Russia’s 2016 election interference: The final chapter

A report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election by the Senate Intelligence Committee released Tuesday confirms there was a sprawling web of contacts between Trump’s campaign advisers and Russian officials who were connected to the Kremlin. Among the nearly 1,000-page report’s findings: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was in cahoots with a Russian intelligence officer “on narratives that…

Russians didn’t actually manipulate ballots in 2016, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen in 2020

Among the seemingly infinite controversies since President Trump took office in 2016, perhaps none have persisted as singularly as the concern of Russian interference in our elections. In his new book, Rigged: America, Russia, and One Hundred Years of Covert Electoral Interference, reporter David Shimer assesses the history of election meddling between the two nations, from post–World War II to Vladimir Putin’s current shadow over U.S. elections.

While Russia didn’t manipulate actual ballots and voting systems in 2016, Shimer says pandemic conditions could make such interference possible this year. …

The intraparty social media spats of today will inspire Putin and Co.’s memes of tomorrow

TO: His Excellency Vladimir V. Putin
President of the Russian Federation
4 Staraya Square
Moscow 103132, Russia

DATE: 29.01.20

RE: Operation Infektion, 2020

Dear President Putin,

Per your request, here is a preview of our weaponized memes for the 2020 campaign. As was the case in 2016, Twitter activity in the 2020 primary season is once again providing us with troves of intelligence on which wedge issues to leverage against Americans in the general campaign and beyond. It’s as if this platform is doing our work for us!

To date, Bernie Sanders has emerged as the clear leader in the…

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to Washington may as well be a victory lap: U.S. foreign policy is serving Moscow’s interests now

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

From a national security standpoint, the most important question about Vladimir Putin’s big 2016 investment in Donald Trump has always been about whether Russia would eventually get something significant in return for helping elect the U.S. president. Surveying President Trump’s actions over the past year, the answer appears to be that Putin is in the process of getting quite a lot from the United States, perhaps more than he could have ever imagined.

Not only has the United States taken very pro-Putin stances in Russia’s hot wars in Ukraine and Syria, but on a grander scale Trump has helped convey…

We were told Russia was a hoax, the president was persecuted by Obama, and the real traitors would be locked up. So much for all that.

For months, President Trump and his allies have been salivating over a report from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, outlining what they expected would be a tale worthy of a John le Carré novel. Taking a cue from Trump, Fox News and a constellation of right-wing media have promised us that the report would reveal the smoking guns in the deep state’s plot to destroy the president. …

Trust Issues

I still can’t quite shake that Russian fatalism

Berlin wasn’t exactly my choice. After spending seven years as a reporter in Moscow, most of them for TIME magazine, I had initially asked for a transfer to Athens, where the weather is better, the government less stable, and the transition — between two cities with no shortage of political drama — would probably have felt less abrupt, like gradually decompressing as you ascend from the depths. But my editors decided otherwise. The German capital is the center of Europe, so that’s where they sent me in the fall of 2013.

The move made me realize a lot about myself…

Power Trip

Despite a lagging military and weak economy, they remain a modern superpower thanks to information warfare.

Russia lost the Cold War and now finds itself in a difficult position. The United States sits atop the global power structure, with China closing the gap. The United States’ annual military budget in 2017 was $610 billion, higher than the next seven countries combined. And many of those are U.S. allies. China’s is $228 billion and growing. Russia’s military budget in 2017 was $66.3 billion—less than Saudi Arabia’s. Its economy is a twelfth the size of the United States.

With the world’s largest nuclear arsenal and the ability to project military power in its region, Russia remains a player…

Academics and experts in political science failed to cut through the noise of partisan skeptics and true believers

The report from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller highlights many shortcomings in American democracy, but also reveals a deeper failure that informs our broader politics: the silence of the experts. Those well-positioned to comment on the investigation — academic Russia watchers, political science experts on elections, and non-partisan national security specialists — too often ceded the media coverage and mainstream debate to partisans.

Two voices dominated in the run-up to the Mueller report. True believers filled in the dots between each bit of tantalizing evidence to create a conspiracy of daunting proportions dating back to 1987. …

Russia appears to have telegraphed Sunday’s attack in a tweet days before

After Syrian government forces used chemical weapons on Sunday as part of its offensive to retake enclaves from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syrian, Russia kept silent. But it appears the Russian Ministry of Defense knew the attacks were coming, and indeed worked preemptively to spread vilifying information in hopes of justifying the violence.

Syrian opposition officials have determined that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons during airstrikes on strategic positions near a key Russian military base last Sunday, a move that has sparked fears among Syrian rebels that a final offensive — one…

The U.S. has issued Turkey an ultimatum: Buy weapons from Russia and lose out on our partnership

The last thing the frayed alliance between the United States and Turkey needed was an intractable conflict over a trillion-dollar next-generation fighter aircraft. Yet that’s exactly where the two countries find themselves. In the past weeks it’s become apparent that neither side is willing to back down from a dispute over what should be two routine arms deals between close allies. The resulting standoff could complicate a raft of national security and economic issues crucial to both nations.

Ankara insists it will proceed in a multi-billion dollar purchase of the top-end S-400 Russian air defense system, even after dealing with…

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