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Op-Ed: Benedict Donald

According to Yoni Ariel, Republican nominee Donald Trump's latest rampages are further proof of his collaboration with Russia to subvert the American political system. The aim of the campaign now seems to be less about winning and more about subverting the system via a scorched earth campaign, rendering America so weak and paralyzed by internal strife that it will not be able to effectively counter Russian aggression in the Middle East and Europe.
Trump and Putin Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

Trump's latest rantings should not be dismissed and belittled as desperate acts of a man who has lost it. He may be crazy but crazy like a fox.

The most commonly touted explanation is that he believes his sole slim chance of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat is low voter turnout. The fact that he invested peanuts compared to Clinton in voter drives and get out the vote organizational infrastructures clearly indicates this. He is, therefore, trying to create an atmosphere so toxic and disgusting that many voters will vote with their feet and stay home. So far, polls suggest this strategy will not work and may instead boomerang, keeping his voters home and giving Clinton's an extra shove to the polling booths.

There is another more sinister explanation. There is mounting evidence, much of which are hard facts, that Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have been in cahoots for a long time, since before he first announced his candidacy.   

Every day, more evidence attesting to the links between the Trump campaign and the Russian cyber-assault and disinformation campaign emerges. The US has already formally confirmed Russian intelligence was behind this unprecedented assault on the American political system in order to influence the outcome in Trump's favor. We all remember Trump's indiscreet but for a change candid remark that Putin should continue his hacking of the DNC. 

The campaign is a classic Russian subversion campaign. Putin's specialty in the KGB was the art of maskirovka (mask in Russian). It refers to campaigns based on disinformation, deception and subversion. His mentor at the KGB academy, with whom he remained close until his death in the late 1990s, was one of the USSR's most successful agents in this field. In the two countries in which he operated, he succeeded in penetrating their governments at the highest levels. He was never uncovered in one of them. In the other, he was but the level of his penetration and the damage he caused was deemed such a threat to the country's political stability that they let him go in order to cover up the entire affair. 

The Russian campaign is based on cyber warfare and disinformation. Raw information is obtained via sophisticated cyber-assaults only a major intelligence agency with advanced technology resources at its disposal is capable of carrying out. Once obtained, the information is carefully vetted and when necessary, doctored to create an effective disinformation campaign as possible. It is then released through a seemingly relatively innocuous third party, in this case, WikiLeaks. The aim is to create an impression that the information was obtained by the organization disseminating it.

Trump and Clinton Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

The problem is that WikiLeaks, according to its founder Julian Assange, has never been involved in hacking. He has always claimed that what he does is legal, simply acting as a platform for concerned whistleblowers.

This means that he has been lying from the beginning, that the Clinton campaign is full of disloyal people who regularly leak information, or that he obtained the information from the Russian intelligence agencies that carried out the cyber-attacks. Considering the fact that Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for over four years and that Ecuador is overtly pro-Russian in its political orientation, it does not require the mental faculties of a rocket scientist to figure out which explanation is the most likely.           

At least one case of WikiLeaks having released doctored documentation has recently come to light. Several days ago, it transpired that a WikiLeaks release purported to contain hacked emails between Clinton and her campaign chairman John Podesta. After an investigation by US intelligence, it transpired that the emails were forgeries. The actual emails hijacked by the Russian hacking of the DNC system were between Podesta and Clinton from the period when Podesta was a senior-level White House staffer before he left to join the Clinton campaign. The emails were unclassified, dealing with various policy options being mulled by the White House, which were forwarded to Clinton and the DNC for their input and feedback. In their true context, they are pretty innocuous, so they were doctored to give them a different context, which made them more damning to Clinton.

This revelation removes whatever doubt there may have been regarding the connection between WikiLeaks, the Russian intelligence cyber-assault and the Trump campaign.     

In addition, there is credible hard evidence of long-standing business relations between Trump and some of the oligarchs in Putin's inner circle. It was dodgy opaque Russian investments that saved Trump from a post-2008 financial meltdown. This is why he has refused to release his tax returns or any other financial information as it could provide a proverbial smoking gun linking him to Putin.

Additional evidence as to the long-standing ties between Trump and Putin came to light when it emerged that Paul Manafort, a long time Trump associate and crony who has been intimately involved in the Trump campaign from the beginning, had been on Russia's payroll. He was hired by oligarchs on behalf of the Kremlin to burnish the image of former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych in the US. Yanukovych was the pro-Russian president who was toppled by a popular uprising against his corrupt brutal regime. He was Putin's stooge who wanted to cut Ukraine's link with the EU and reintegrate the country in the Russian economic sphere.

We are talking about a core Russian interest here. Ever since Putin came to power, he has been determined to undo the post-USSR political order. He wants to reintegrate Ukraine and the Baltic states, which had been part of the USSR, into Russia's sphere of influence. He never accepted the Baltic states' integration into NATO and the EU and was determined to prevent Ukraine from following them into the West's orbit.   

The US is not the only target of Putin's subversion campaign against the West. He has provided financial support to UKIP, Le Front National and other right-wing populist anti-EU parties in order to sow discord and thus facilitate the EU's demise, which would also negatively impact NATO.           

Syria Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

More evidence as to Russia's involvement with the Trump campaign can be found by looking at the milestones of Russia's military involvement in Syria and comparing them to developments regarding the Trump campaign. Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015. A month later, Russia began taking steps to military intervene in Syrian civil war. By the end of the year, with polls showing Trump likely to win the Republican primaries, Putin significantly increased Russian military forces in Syria. Once Trump had become the presumptive nominee, Putin upped the ante again.

It is true all this evidence could be coincidental. It's possible but when viewing the overall picture, it’s extremely improbable.

The unavoidable conclusion is that Putin's moves have been coordinated with Trump for quite some time and that they have reached an understanding that if he occupied the Oval Office, America will not move against Russia in either Syria or Eastern Europe.

With Trump either in or close to meltdown, their objective now is to torch the American political system. This is what his rubbish about rigged elections is all about, subverting the American political system to the point where it reaches a level of polarization last seen in 1860.

Putin, the grand master of subversion, hopes this will be sufficient to paralyze the American political system for months, preventing any American response to Russian aggression in East Europe, not just in Ukraine but in the Baltic states (NATO members) as well.

With the US out of the equation thanks to the scorched earth tactics of Benedict Donald, Putin reckons France, Germany and the UK will not come to the defense of their junior NATO partners, enabling him to reoccupy the Baltic states, fulfilling his promise to restore Russia to its rightful borders and probably dismembering NATO as well.

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JOL Blogger | Yoni Ariel

Yoni was born in South Africa, where he is known as Jonathan Schwartz. He fled to Israel as a political exile. He served in the ANC and subsequently worked with the ANC leadership and Nelson Mandela.

He worked for many years as a journalist. He was the News Editor at Makor Rishon and Editor-in-Chief of both Ma’ariv International and JOL.

He currently works as an entrepreneur and strategic consultant. He worked closely with former Defense Minister Benyamin (Fuad) Ben Eliezer and has worked with other politicians who entered public life after serving in the IDF or other security agencies. In addition, he was a contributing writer to The Encyclopedia of Military Science (Sage Publications), produced by University of Tennessee, as part of its ROTC program.      

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