A pair of Newsweek stories neatly bracket why Vladimir Putin and his legion of Russian hackers favor Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.
The Trump/Putin love affair isn’t just a mutual authoritarian bromance. What Putin likes best about Trump is that Donald lets him get away with murder … of democracy.
… the Republican nominee for president has emboldened the Kremlin in its unprecedented cyber-campaign to disrupt elections in multiple countries in hopes of weakening Western alliances, according to intelligence, law enforcement and other government officials in the United States and Europe.
Trump’s refusal to call out the Russians on hacking and his easy susceptibility to Russian propaganda make him a fan favorite among those wanting to degrade NATO and allow the Russian military to do as it likes. Putin is confident that with Trump in charge, America could be manipulated with ease.
… a document altered by Russian propagandists and put out on the internet—ultimately published by Sputnik—had been cited by Trump at a rally as fact.
But even more than he loves Trump, Putin fears Hillary Clinton. And for a very good reason: Hillary Clinton knows you don’t have to fight Russia to destroy Putin.
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What Hillary Clinton knows about Vladmir Putin is very simple: Putin’s economy is exactly one commodity deep. So when Hillary Clinton gives a speech about the growing power of U.S. oil and gas ...
“We can have a North American energy system that will be unbelievably powerful. If we have enough of it, we can be exporting and supporting a lot of our friends and allies.”
What she’s really doing is putting Putin on notice that he can no longer use pipelines between Russia and Europe to both bully European politics and (literally) fuel the Russian economy.
Those Wikileaks speeches where Hillary Clinton talks up the idea of fracking? American progressives may not like them, but Russian authoritarians hate them, because keeping world oil and gas prices high is the only chance that the oligarchs have to pocket massive wealth for themselves—and to fund a first-rate army in what is, increasingly, a third-rate power.
Truthfully, it’s not necessary to frack every stone in either America or Europe to keep Putin’s Russia on the rocks. It’s not even clear that there’s a need for any additional fracking. What’s necessary is that oil and gas prices stay low. With the U.S. producing at record volume and OPEC unable to agree on production cuts, Russia finds its shallow economy getting shallower by the day. At this point, increasing use of renewables can probably replace fossil fuels quickly enough to keep those prices down.
And Hillary Clinton is very, very aware of this fact.
… Clinton made the direct link between America’s energy fortunes and targeting Moscow. “We are now energy independent, something we have hoped for and worked for over many, many years,” she said in a July 2014 speech. “That gives us tools we didn’t have before. And it also gives us the opportunity not only to invest those resources in more manufacturing and other activities that benefit us directly here at home, but to be a bulwark with our supplies against the kind of intimidation we see going on from Russia.”
This is the sore point for Russia. Keep the price of natural gas low, and Russian wealth goes away. Take the need for oil and gas away … and Russian power disappears with it.
Clinton doesn’t have to go to war with Putin. She can starve him out.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s susceptibility to conspiracy theories and lies makes Putin’s mouth water with possibilities.
Officials in Western Europe say they are dismayed that they now feel compelled to gather intelligence on a man who could be the next president of the United States, but believe they have no choice. Moscow is seen as a direct threat to their interests—both in its aggressive efforts to reshape global alliances and for its power to damage Western Europe, which obtains almost 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia. Should the United States, the last remaining superpower, tilt its policies away from NATO to the benefit of Russia, the alliance between America and Western Europe could be transformed in unprecedented ways.
Trump is Putin’s ticket to grabbing what he wants, while he can. Ukraine? Take it. Syria? Of course. Balkans? Hey, they weren’t paying their bills.
The possibility is also there for Donnie to directly help good old Vlad with his most immediate problem. Trump has talked about putting U.S. energy workers back on the job, even though there’s no demand for more production. Might Trump do so by creating some kind of massive new “energy reserve” that takes production off the market? Or maybe he’ll just impose government price supports that keep the industry happy. Either one could drive up world prices and ease the pressure on Moscow. Trump is sure to drop supports for renewable energy, ensuring that Russian gas has value far into the future.
Donald Trump hasn’t really given many details about energy policy, but it’s certain that Vladimir Putin has some ideas.