Opinion | Putin has unfinished business in America – The Washington Post

Maybe now that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is well underway, the implications of President Vladimir Putin’s actions against the United States in 2016 will finally sink in, especially for Republicans in Congress. The Vladimir Putin who planned, staged and launched a large-scale war on Ukraine is the same Vladimir Putin who ordered an aggressive, multifaceted, clandestine campaign to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Putin’s Ukraine goal: pull that country from the West and back into Russia’s sphere of influence. His U.S. goal in 2016: undermine the democratic process, disparage and undercut Hillary Clinton and her campaign for president, and help elect Donald Trump.
The outcome of his Ukraine campaign is yet to be decided. His U.S. effort found full success.
But more than a personality contest was at stake five years ago. To be sure, Putin had his reasons for loathing Clinton. As Barack Obama’s secretary of state, she took a hard line on Russia. She was a vocal supporter of the 2011 protests of Putin’s government. But Putin also had his reasons for wanting Trump in the Oval Office. As with the buildup in his campaign to take Ukraine, Putin was clearly playing a long game: put in place a U.S. president who would pursue policies that weaken the European Union and NATO, the bulwarks against Russian expansion into former Soviet countries. Trump was the answer.
In Trump, Putin finally had a U.S. president who generated more anti-American sentiment in Europe than the Kremlin could ever have hoped to produce on its own.
Perhaps now, Republicans will reappraise reports — which many of them discounted — of Russian social media campaigns aimed at provoking discord in this country. The Russian disinformation campaign to bolster domestic support for an invasion into Ukraine reminded me of the targeted disinformation operations in the 2016 election by the Internet Research Agency, based in St. Petersburg and allegedly controlled by a Russian oligarch tied to Putin.
Now that Russian government hackers have probably penetrated Ukrainian military, energy and other critical computer networks to collect intelligence, skeptical Republican partisans might come to accept the evidence that the Russian intelligence service known as the GRU hacked into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee. Maybe Republicans who turned a blind eye to 2016 will now accept findings that the GRU agents stole hundreds of thousands of documents from the compromised email accounts and networks.
Now that it has been reported that Russian propaganda and misinformation campaigns have been launched on social media platforms and have targeted websites, including those of Fox News in the United States, Le Figaro in France, La Stampa in Italy, and Der Spiegel and Die Welt in Germany, maybe more people in this country will believe findings that the Internet Research Agency purchased political advertisements on social media in the names of Americans and U.S. organizations, and even staged political rallies within the United States in support of Trump.
The simple truth is that Putin believed Russia would benefit from having Trump in the White House, and he pushed his intelligence services to help secure that outcome. Just as he perceives that a subjugated Ukraine benefits Russia and is now working to achieve that end.
There’s a lesson in this for the United States.
Putin said he would not invade Ukraine. He lied. He said Russia did not interfere in our 2016 presidential election. He lied about that, too.
In the present crisis, President Biden has been stalwart in rallying a unified response from NATO and the West. If Americans didn’t believe it before, they sure should believe it now: Putin sees Biden, as he saw Clinton, as an impediment to what he wants.
And Trump, who calls Putin a “genius” and accepts his lie about the presidential election, wants back in.
Russia had success with its information-warfare playbook in 2016. Count on a Russian influence operation conducted through social media to disparage Biden, undermine his leadership and stoke support for his opposition. The goal: defeat an American political enemy.
It worked once before. Wake up, America, to another Russian threat. This time, no one can claim to have not seen it coming.
The latest: Kyiv wakes after night of street fighting, loud gunfire and explosions as defiant Ukrainians resist military onslaught.
Maps: Russia’s assault on Ukraine has been extensive with strikes and attacks across the entire country. We’re tracking the invasion here.
The invasion: Photos and videos show what the situation on the ground looks like. Here’s what we know about why Russia has attacked Ukraine.
The response: Western nations have announced sweeping sanctions on Russian banks, companies and officials, including President Vladimir Putin. Global leaders were quick to condemn Russia’s actions and call for a decisive response. In some corners, responses were somewhat muted.
How we got here: The conflict playing out between Russia and Ukraine is one marked by land borders and shaped by strategic influence. These four maps help explain the deep roots of the conflict and where things stand right now.
Read our full coverage of the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
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By Kwetu Buzz

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