Russia, an FBI official said on Monday, wants Americans to “tear ourselves apart” as we head toward the November election.
The U.S. seems to be complying.
Just last week came the news of a Feb. 13 congressional briefing on Moscow’s ongoing attack on the 2020 election, in which officials reportedly said Russia was working in support of President Donald Trump just as it did in 2016, according to an intelligence report issued in 2017 by the Office of Director of National Intelligence.
While the account of what was said Feb. 13 is in dispute, the Capitol Hill briefing reportedly enraged the president, who subsequently replaced an intelligence veteran, Joseph Maguire, as acting director of national intelligence, with Richard Grenell, a loyalist with no relevant intelligence background.
A day after that move, Americans learned that the intelligence community believes Russia is also working on behalf of Sen. Bernie Sanders as its preferred candidate in the race for the Democratic nomination.
The seemingly contradictory moves made sense to some Americans when viewed through an ideological lens, given Trump’s repeated rhetorical affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as newly resurfaced interviews with Sanders in which he defended the Soviet Union, Cuba and Nicaragua.
But Moscow’s ultimate goal could be to sow chaos, which would limit America’s ability, if not willingness, to confront Russia’s revanchism — destabilizing actions like the illegal annexation of Crimea and its immoral rescue of the homicidal Assad regime in Syria.
“I would classify what the Russian influence operations do as equal-opportunity hyperpartisan,” Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, told an editorial writer. “They will prey on any division in order to exacerbate that,” Brookie said. “America’s divisions make America less capable of confronting Russia, about playing the traditional role of America’s leadership” in the world.
And so sowing divides, especially via social media, is designed to weaken an American resolve that has served as a bulwark against Russian, and formerly Soviet, geopolitical aggression.
Russia is advancing an “information confrontation,” David Porter, an assistant section chief with the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force, said at a Monday election security conference in Washington. “The primary objective is not to create a particular version of the truth but rather to cloud the truth and erode our ability to find it, creating a sentiment that no narrative or news source can be trusted at all.”
But of course there are news sources, government officials and outside experts who provide accurate and transparent reporting that can be trusted.
That’s why Trump’s denigration of a phantom “deep state” and some media outlets as “fake news” or “enemies of the American people” is so deleterious to the U.S. and only serves to indirectly advance Russia’s aim of weakening America while justifying the corruption of its own democracy.
Russia will likely continue its assault. The U.S. government — and most importantly, everyday Americans — must not be fooled.