US-Russia relations have had many ups and downs over the years. Legitimate national security concerns, political posturing, and clandestine financial interests are often mixed together in a Russia policy that is less jumbled than strategic.
According to The Washington Times, Vladimir Putin was angered by then-President Obama’s appointment of Michael McFaul as ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014. McFaul, an academic from Stanford University, had been a top Russia advisor in Obama’s National Security Council and was perceived as being part of Clinton’s remarks that led to major protests in Moscow. In retaliation, Putin declared “hybrid warfare” against the US.
McFaul was already well-known by Putin when he arrived in Russia as ambassador. The Russian government considered him a player in the Clinton State Department’s alleged efforts to delegitimize and overthrow Putin.
In 2011, two years after Obama vowed to institute a “reset” of relations between the two superpowers, Clinton had a heated exchange with Putin over Russia’s elections. Huge crowds gathered to protest Putin’s government, resulting in the largest demonstrations in Moscow in decades.
McFaul’s role as a Russia advisor and social media expert who had reached out to Putin’s political opponents was known among Moscow’s ruling party. His selection as ambassador was seen as an act of provocation.
A former covert intelligence agent said McFaul, “made the Kremlin’s hair stand on end.” The former American ambassador to Russia claims it was not his intention to erode trust between the two nations.
McFaul also said that his “reaching out to opposition figures was deliberately and grossly exaggerated by the Kremlin and state-controlled media.” According to the Obama-era ambassador, the Kremlin’s worries were political theater aimed at attacking their rivals.
“The Kremlin needed a way to discredit the opposition, so they accused them of being puppets of the West, Obama and me,” McFaul said. “In my view, their propaganda efforts succeeded.” Michael Hayden asserts these tensions contributed to Russia’s alleged attempts to interfere in the 2016 election.
According to Hayden, “The Russians wanted to punish Hillary and erode confidence in the American electoral process itself.” The former CIA director calls Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 American presidential election “most successful covert influence campaign in the history of covert influence campaigns.” In an effort to carry out “hybrid warfare” against the US, Putin allegedly employed the assistance of General Valery Gerasimov.
The General is the author of the “Gerasimov Doctrine of Hybrid Warfare.” This theory argues that “in the 21st century we have seen a tendency toward blurring the lines between the states of war and peace. Wars are no longer declared and, having begun, proceed according to an unfamiliar template. The very ‘rules of war’ have changed.”
Gerasimov and Putin allegedly copied social media techniques used against them by the Clinton State Department in order to “punish Hillary” by making her lose her presidential bid.
As The Daily Caller reported, CIA Director Mike Pompeo disputes the notion that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a factor in Clinton’s loss. “The intelligence community’s assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election,” Pompeo said.
The head of the CIA went on to explain that Russian interference “is not new.” According to Pompeo, “the Russians have been at this an awfully long time.” He concluded that “until there is a new leader in Russia I suspect it will be a threat an awfully long time.”