Paying Russia Back for Election Interference Is an Exercise in Futility

Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, wrestling, elections
Wrestling with Democracy. Photo credit: DonkeyHotey / WhoWhatWhy (CC BY-SA 2.0) See complete attribution below

It’s been a tough stretch for people who like democracy. Not only is the right to vote in the United States under continuous assault from within, but the regime of Vladimir Putin also successfully interfered in both the 2016 US presidential election and the Brexit vote in the UK, in an effort to undermine the West.

Now that Putin is up for “re-election” in March, wouldn’t it be nice to exact some measure of revenge? At the very least, the countries that Russia has targeted could give him something to think about domestically, so that he cannot focus so much of his attention on meddling elsewhere.

There are just a couple of problems with seeking payback.

First, President Donald Trump, after getting an assist from Putin in the US election (which is the most charitable way of putting it), surely has zero interest in pursuing any such plans. That would make things tricky because, among Russia’s targets, the US has the most experience in messing with elections abroad. In fact, it might be easier to list the countries that have held elections without American interference than with it, as people all across the Americas, in Iran, Afghanistan, the Russians themselves, etc. can attest to.

So that leaves the Europeans, who have lately had little stomach for such things. But let’s say that some sub rosa agency of the European Union decided to pursue a low-risk strategy of only copying the legal parts of Putin’s anti-democracy playbook, such as social-media buys, troll accounts, and the distribution of fake news.

What could such an initiative accomplish? Virtually nothing.

Because trying to interfere in an election in Putin’s Russia would be like fixing the outcome of WrestleMania or a Harlem Globetrotters game. There is no point because we already know what’s going to happen.

On paper, Russia is a democracy. In reality, it’s a mix of a murderous Czarist regime, an oligarchy, and a kleptocracy. In other words, it’s about as democratic as North Carolina (minus the murder of opposition leaders and journalists).

Case in point: In an attempt to show how open the upcoming election would be, Russia’s news agency TASS reported this week that international observers would be allowed to monitor it — including representatives of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and FIS, a group of former Soviet states.

Russia “persistently meets electoral commitments within participation in CIS, the Council of Europe and OSCE, providing accessibility for international monitoring to the electoral process in general elections,” said Nikolai Levichev, a member of Russia’s Central Election Commission. He added that this is “a reliable international guarantee that Russia’s democratic elections are open and fair.”

The OSCE, however, sees things a bit differently.

“Although all contestants were able to campaign unhindered, the conditions for the campaign were found to be skewed in favor of one candidate,” the organization declared in its final report on the previous Russian presidential election in 2012. “While all candidates had access to media, one candidate, the then Prime Minister, was given clear advantage in the coverage. State resources were also mobilized in his support.”

That prime minister, of course, was Putin and — to put it in American terms — what this means is that the pre-election coverage in Russia was as fair and balanced as your average Fox & Friends broadcast.

Furthermore, OSCE noted that the process on election day “deteriorated during the count due to procedural irregularities.” If that sounds ominous that’s because it is.

While the outcome of the 2018 election is a mere formality, Putin is apparently taking no chances. On Christmas Day, he had Alexei Navalny, the leading opposition candidate, banned from participating in the March vote.

So much for Putin’s idea of “open and fair.” The only real question is what the Russian president will cook up for us in his next six years in power.

The cartoon above was created by DonkeyHotey for WhoWhatWhy from these images: Vladimir Putin caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), Donald Trump caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0), Wrestlers (Tabercil / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0), crowd (Shared Account / Wikimedia – CC BY-SA 2.0), and referee (Tabercil / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0).

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22 responses to “Paying Russia Back for Election Interference Is an Exercise in Futility”

  1. Postkey says:

    “Over and over and over again this alleged Russian asset has been choosing to undermine Moscow instead of advancing its interests. He approved the sale of arms to Ukraine, a move loudly encouraged by DC neocons which Obama refused to do because of the dangerous tensions it would inflame with Russia. His administration forced first RT and now Sputnik to register as foreign agents, expanded NATO with the addition of Montenegro, assigning established Russia hawk Kurt Volker as special representative to Ukraine, shutting down a Russian consulate in San Francisco and throwing out Russian diplomats as part of continued back-and-forth hostile diplomatic exchanges, and signing the Russian sanctions bill despite loud protests from Moscow. If he is indeed an expensive Russian asset, then Russia got ripped off.”

  2. ALTERNATE HISTORY says:

    The Author seems to take it on blind trust that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections. Where’s the evidence that Trump is some kind of Manchurian candidate? A year of Russiagate and zilch!

  3. Judyz says:

    Those who interfere with our elections the most are the Republican Party along with their benefactors, Fox News, etc. What with cross state checks via Kris Koback, SOS of KS who’s managed through his purge system to purge thousands of legitimate voters from KS and other GOP controlled states alleging they are somehow voting twice in more than 1 state simply because they have the same first and last names while he ignored the different birth dates, middle names, last 4 digits of the SS #, etc. 38,000 alone were purged in VA recently and way more than that from swing states in 2016 election. Add to that the gerrymandering, voter ID laws, voter intimidation, etc. and it takes 4-5 democratic voters for every republican one to get a democrat elected. If the Russians spread some nasty info about Hillary it’s certainly nothing the GOP hasn’t been up to for years and is still trying to do to deflect attention of our insane President who they excuse constantly for all the same things they went after Obama for. It’s wrong just to be a democrat these days in their eyes. The whole Party has become a crime mob in my opinion,

  4. Mik says:

    Are you Russian?

  5. punkyboy says:

    I’m surprised that WhoWhat is publishing the absolute nonsense that Russia “interfered” in our election. Where’s the proof? The entire fake news story is the result of Clinton’s inability to accept that she, and she alone, is responsible for losing the election to a reality show buffoon, stoked by her personal hatred of Putin. Thanks to her, we are immersed in a new Cold War that could turn hot at any moment.

    • Mik says:

      Read “Collusion” by Luke Harding before telling anyone else your nonsense about “no meddling”. Also, Russian election hacking was documented in 21 States. TWENTY-ONE STATES.

    • punkyboy says:

      Nonsense? I think you are looking in the mirror.

    • Mik says:

      Like most of the Trump cult, you’re in the State of denial.

      Hillary lost because Russian trolls seized on the split between Dems regarding Clinton / Sanders… And made Hillary out to be a Liar / Uranium Selling . She lost a lot of swing State votes; and the Comey announcement was the final straw that destroyed her chances.

      Trump is a pathological liar, and his policy is if called on his lies, to simply double down and lie louder. Russian Facebook postings helped him. FACT.

      Russians also hacked into the election machines in 21 States. What they did has not been determined, to my knowledge.

    • David Harrell says:

      There is zero, repeat, ZERO evidence Russia “hacked into the election machines” anywhere.
      You’re an obvious troll and you’re among informed readers. Get outta here with that idiocy.

    • Mik says:

      Russia did influence the election, here, in Ukraine, and in UK. And there is evidence, and it is part of what Mueller is looking into.

      Whether or not they altered actual vote count is unknown, so far. But they are trying, and the also impacted public opinion.

      Don’t tell me what to do, ever.

    • Postkey says:

      This is why H.R.C. ‘lost’?
      “And it’s deadly. Doubtless, Crosscheck delivered Michigan to Trump who supposedly “won” the state by 10,700 votes. The Secretary of State’s office proudly told me that they were “very aggressive” in removing listed voters before the 2016 election. Kobach, who created the lists for his fellow GOP officials, tagged a whopping 417,147 in Michigan as potential double voters.”

    • "Russiagate" is a HOAX says:

      Exactly. The author Luke Harding (of the “Collusion” book that the troll is trying to get people to read) made a fool of himself, exposed the complete lack of evidence of Russian hacking/collusion.

    • Postkey says:

      “The interview that exposes Russia-hating journalist Luke Harding (VIDEO)
      Real News host and presenter Aaron Maté eviscerates Luke Harding on Russiagate collusion claims”?

    • David Harrell says:

      It’s complete BS. There is no proof.
      It’s not only Clinton’s doing but the also the usual gang of neocon and establishment Republicans who’ve been trying to demonize, economically immobilize, militarily encircle, and take down Russia (also their neighbors, such as Ukraine) for years.

      In fact, they succeeded, temporarily, during the ’90s with their puppet Yeltsin.
      They’ve been trying to strip Russia of her share of the Euro gas market for years, for example. By taking Ukraine, NATO and the forces of empire can dictate the terms to Russia or block access altogether.
      Part and parcel with this, was their desire to take down Syria (Russian ally) considered a necessary route from the Empire’s client state Saudi Arabia, to pipe her natural gas up to Europe. Assad would instead favor a Mideast-to-Europe pipeline carrying gas from his ally (and Empire rival, Iran).
      Of course, their ISIS play to take down Syria and cause general chaos throughout the region met a brick wall called Putin and Trump.
      They’re foaming-at-the-mouth mad about the fact their proxy terror army has not achieved its objectives.
      Funny how on the big issues, the Clintocrats and the mad dog neocons end up on the same side.

  6. “the regime of Vladimir Putin also successfully interfered in both the 2016 US presidential election and the Brexit vote in the UK”. Rubbish. There’s zero proof and almost nothing that counts as evidence–let alone motive or benefit–to support such a silly idea.

    “Alexei Navalny, the leading opposition candidate, banned from participating in the March vote”? Alex has never, in his entire, US-funded career, drawn more than 2% of the vote. Not once. He’s a joke.

    • Mik says:

      What’s not a joke is the reality that Putin’s opposition are routinely imprisoned, or murdered. Mr. Navalny may not be a strong possibility as a political opponent, but the government’s charges against him seem dubious – as usual. Maybe you aspire to see America become a dictatorship. I don’t.

    • Mik says:

      Opposition candidates have been murdered.. Add in RT as a propaganda machine. Read “Collusion” by Luke Harding. Read international News. Putin is a Mafioso thug, and he is trying to regain all of the territory the USSR lost in its collapse. Maybe the Russian populace supports that. Maybe you’re Russian? I’m not. And I have zero interest in seeing the USA become a Russian puppet nation, via Trump. Also every Russian I know here knows that Putin is Mafioso KGB. Anyone who thinks otherwise is poorly informed.

  7. Mik says:

    Leave Putin to his own demise, politcally. The Russians like to project the idea that they are physically intimidating, and intellectually & strategically superior. They’re not. In fact, they are a cowardly population who are completely incapable of securing the own rights to chose leaders who respect them. Russia / Putin is the latest version of their Mafia government. The Russian people are too afraid of this system to try to get rid of it.

    What is infuriating here is the fact that the Republican Party doesn’t respect us either, and has been migrating towards a dictatorship form of rule ever since the Nixon era. They have gained power either through assassinations (JFK/RFK) or through shrewdly projected Nationalist propaganda. Which has reached its zenith with FOX News (Lies) and Trump who is a full on Mafioso Liar.

    If Meuller and the population dont recommit to the principles of the American Constitution, and our international Allies who have similar governmental laws, then Putin has won. If we can get rid of Trump in an emphatically severe way through the rule of Law, then the world will regain hope, and Putin will be seen for the oppressive Mafioso creep murderer that he is; like Stalin, and Lenin, etc.

    • James Leonard says:

      Obviously, you’ve never been to Russia. Your comment parrots western press, but ignores the reality of what’s happening in Russia. Russians don’t intimidate because that’s considered a sign of weakness. Intimidation is an American trait. Life in Russia has improved dramatically during the Putin years and it’s happened without mortgaging the future. They can pay their sovereign debt off today and still have almost $300 billion in the bank. I’ll bet you didn’t know Russia is #1 in the world in literacy. Positive news about Russia isn’t allowed in the west.

  8. DemandAnswers says:

    No evidence of election interference as of yet by Putin! More “Russian hysteria”! I thought WhoWhatWhy was better than this!!

    • Mik says:

      Read “Collusion” by Luke Harding before telling anyone else your nonsense about “no meddling”. Also, Russian election hacking was documented in 21 States. TWENTY-ONE STATES.

    • Marko says:

      ” Russian election hacking was documented in 21 States. TWENTY-ONE
      STATES. ”

      Show us the “documentation”. That story was falsified within days , though it was never retracted. There IS documentation that DHS hacked state voter rolls , in many cases against the expressed wishes of the states involved , but since it wasn’t a “Russia-Russia-Russia !” story , nobody much cared.

    • Mik says:

      Site references.

    • Marko says:

      See Greenwald in The Intercept : “Yet Another Major Russia Story Falls Apart. Is Skepticism Permissible Yet? ”

      also Liz Stark and Tal Kopan at CNN : ” Trump admin furthers states’ frustration over election hacking ”

      There was “probing” of systems , probably in every state. This happens all the time , everywhere , originating from hackers – both government and private – from dozens of countries around the globe. There was no “hacking” of 21 election systems , and if any at all WERE hacked , there has been no credible evidence presented linking such hacks to the Russian government. A linked IP address that appears to be in Russia means absolutely nothing , as you must know.

      Also from The Intercept , titled ” THE U.S. ELECTION SYSTEM REMAINS DEEPLY VULNERABLE, BUT STATES WOULD RATHER CELEBRATE FAKE SUCCESS ” :

      “….We block upwards of 14 million attempts to access our network every day,” Oregon’s Chief Information Security Officer Lisa Vasa said in the statement, which was similar to statements released by other elections offices. In a piece headlined “Russians tried to hack Oregon election systems in 2016,” the Associated Press subsequently reported that the Russian government “tried but failed to access the Oregon Secretary of State’s computer network.” But a network scan, which is what the DHS said happened, is not exactly an attempt to access a network and it is definitely not a hack – rather, it is a search for a vulnerability in a system.”

      Our elections are indeed vulnerable to hacking and other rigging
      methods , and it’s happened in the past and it will in the future , but the perpetrators we should be most concerned about are domestic actors ,
      not foreign.

    • Mik says:

      Thnx. But we should be concerned with both. Any. Equally.

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