Newsweek published an article written by Caroline Baylon on November 11th entitled, “Did Russia Install Donald Trump as the Next U.S. President?” Baylon is “a cybersecurity researcher at the Center for Strategic Decision Research in Paris. She was previously the research associate in science, technology, and cyber security at Chatham House in London.”
Baylon begins by reminding us how the United States has used covert CIA-backed operations to install leaders friendly to the U.S. in countries around the world in “an attempt to gain supremacy over the then-Soviet Union during the Cold War.” She argues that “Russia seems to have taken a page from the U.S. playbook and one upped it, as it may have significantly contributed to the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States.”
Baylon describes how the U.S. Intelligence community agrees Russia was behind the hacking of the emails of the DNC and John Podesta and how these emails were leaked in a way that undermined the Clinton campaign. She notes that this is “consistent with Russia’s activities in cyberspace.” She doesn’t mention how the Russian propaganda effort helped circulate fake news stories, but this would also be consistent with their “activities in cyberspace.”
Russia’s role in the election of Trump is significant because, at a time in which the relationship between the U.S. and Russia has been at its most strained since the end of the Cold War over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and other issues, Moscow has helped ensure that the only candidate that will be friendly to Russia has gained office. While this may have the advantage of making the outbreak of outright hostilities between the U.S. and Russia less likely, it also means that the future U.S. president now owes a debt of gratitude to Russia, once the principal adversary of the U.S.
Baylon does not mention all the financial ties Trump has to Russian financiers. After Trump’s many bankruptcies, U.S. banks refused to fund Trumps business ventures. So he had to turn to Russian financiers. They have financed his projects all around the world. This only enhances the extent to which the “future U.S. president now owes a debt of gratitude to Russia.”
This may make Trump even more conciliatory to a country whose illegal occupation of Crimea has drawn the widespread condemnation of the international community. It also means that Russia, buoyed by its successful use of cyber theft and propaganda in order to install its supporters in key political roles, is likely to further ramp up its use of cyber means to influence elections, both in the U.S. and around the world.