In the early days of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, members of the willfully obtuse community wondered why Vladimir Putin would choose this moment to strike. After all, the raft of sanctions the Biden-led coalition of Western allies had promised made Putin’s misadventure seem utterly foolhardy and borderline suicidal.

Many on the right speculated that Putin waited for Trump’s ouster because Putin was afraid of him. That is a weird thing to say, considering Putin did his utmost to get Trump reelected. If Trump was the one thing standing in the way of Putin’s long-awaited conquest of Ukraine, Putin would have thrown his support behind Joe Biden, not Trump. Putin also likely knew that Trump had hoped to withdraw the U.S. from NATO during his second term—a move that would have allowed Putin to scarf down ex-Soviet republics like Trump crushes Hot Pockets.

No, it seemed obvious—to me, anyway—that Putin was taking a calculated risk. He knew his invasion would pose challenges for a Biden administration already buffeted by rising gas prices and other economic headwinds, and he likely figured he could wait out sanctions until the economic disruption he’d caused began to fray our alliances and—even better—return a weak-willed Republican (either Trump or someone equally as venal and shallow) to the White House.

Well, now there’s reporting to suggest that theory was spot-on. The Daily Beast has obtained a U.S. intelligence bulletin indicating that Putin is once again brain-fucking the U.S. populace to serve his own depraved ends. The only question: Will it work this time?

[R]ather than counting on exiting the political scene in dramatic fashion, Putin might be betting that he can somehow outlast his detractors as well as the Biden Administration, whose security assistance for Ukraine has been pivotal in keeping a Russian win at bay. And part of Putin’s plot to outlive the Biden administration is likely to include influence operations aimed at securing an American political environment that’s more favorable to his goals, former CIA and Department of Homeland Security officials told The Daily Beast.

That scheme will inevitably aim to influence voters participating in both the midterms and the presidential election in 2024 in an attempt to get candidates elected who are somehow more sympathetic to Putin, according to Daniel Hoffman, a former CIA Moscow chief of station.

“He’s going to try really, really hard to… exacerbate those isolationist tendencies and kind of induce us to question, ‘Why are we supporting Ukraine?’” Hoffman said. “He’s trying to dilute U.S. support for [Ukrainian President] Zelenskyy.”

According to an intelligence briefing Daily Beast obtained, Moscow has been pursuing influence operations intended to undermine Americans’ support of Ukraine—in part by blaming Western actions (though, weirdly, not Putin’s illegal invasion) for a looming food crisis tied to disruptions in Ukrainian grain shipments. “Outlets claimed … that Western nations prolonged the conflict by sending military aid to Ukraine,” reads the brief. “Outlets claimed that Western actions were causing global food prices to soar.”

Joe Sudbay returns to geek out with Kerry Eleveld and Cara Zelaya on the Democratic Party must do, what they are doing, and what they aren’t doing on Daily Kos’ The Brief podcast

Of course, the battle for Ukraine’s sovereignty is far more consequential than a temporary spike in domestic gas prices. It’s nothing less than a fateful test of wills between the free world and the corrupt forces of tyranny, brutality, and kleptocracy. And no doubt fellow autocrats around the world are closely watching how America reacts—and whether the West follows through on its commitments. But Putin has likely reasoned—perhaps correctly—that a country that could elevate a dyspeptic game show host and decades-old punchline to the highest office in the land might eagerly line up for another bracing dose of snake oil.

“Putin’s thinking: ‘I can outlast all you people. And if I get this to 2024, I might get a Republican who doesn’t feel like Joe Biden,’” Hoffman, the CIA Moscow chief, said. “They’re students of American politics. Of course he’s going to look at the midterms and he’s looking at anybody who’s … against the war in Ukraine.”

Oh, so they might get someone who doesn’t think like Joe Biden … or any other lucid human, for that matter. Fortunately for Putin, America still has a glut of those characters and—well, lookee here!—they’re almost all Republicans. Meanwhile, J.D. Vance, the Trump-endorsed candidate for the Ohio Senate seat being vacated by Rob Portman, has openly declared that he doesn’t really give a shit about Ukraine. And Fox News’ twerpy Goebbels, Tucker Carlson, has been a consistent favorite among Putin’s propagandists.  

In fact, the Kremlin is already preparing to ratfuck the midterms with an eye toward further dividing our country. “We expect Russian interference in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections, as Russia views this activity as an equitable response to perceived actions by Washington and an opportunity to both undermine U.S. global standing and influence U.S. decision-making,” a June intelligence brief, which was first reported by CNN, stated. 

And according to The Daily Beast, the DHS expects Russia to continue using troll farms and other tools to further undermine our democracy: “We assess that Russia will continue to malign influence and interference activities designed to undermine U.S. global prestige, sow division among the American public, undermine faith in U.S. democratic institutions, and portray Russia as a global power.”

So we have a stark choice. We’re either a real democracy that truly embraces democratic norms and values, or we can vote in more Republicans.

It’s time for Americans to ask themselves “what would Putin do/want?” and then resolve to do the opposite. If not, the ruthless and corrupt Trump-Putin Axis will give Eastern Europe—and much of the rest of the world, no doubt—the ugliest makeover in history.

Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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