Putin’s hope to ignite a Eurasia-style protest in U.S. - Washington Post

11:00, 17 October 2016
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has developed an obsession with "color revolutions," which he is convinced are neither spontaneous nor locally organized, but orchestrated by the United States — and in the case of the Moscow protests four years ago, by Hillary Clinton herself, Jackson Diehl, The Washington Post's Deputy Editorial Page Editor, wrote in an op-ed published October 16.


That’s the context in which Russia’s intervention in the 2016 U.S. presidential election must be understood, the author writes.

Putin is trying to deliver to the American political elite what he believes is a dose of its own medicine. He is attempting to ignite — with the help, unwitting or otherwise, of Donald Trump — a U.S. color revolution.

The article offers to take a look at the way the revolts in resistance to rigged elections in autocracies across Eurasia — in Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Azerbaijan and, in 2012, Russia itself -- unfolded. In every case, they pitted an outsider political movement against an entrenched elite willing to employ fraud and force to remain in power. The outsiders mobilized their followers to collect evidence of rigging on election day and, when they could, conducted exit polls and “quick counts” to obtain vote totals they could contrast with official results. They disseminated their findings through satellite channels and other foreign media. When the inevitable victory of the ruling party was announced, they called their followers to the streets for mass protests they hoped would cause the regime to crumble — or at least discredit its phony election triumph.

Read alsoU.S. accuses Russia of directing cyberattacks to 'interfere' with electionsOf course, Trump’s populist campaign is no more comparable to the pro-democracy insurgencies in formerly Soviet lands such as Ukraine and Belarus than Clinton’s administration-in-waiting is to the Putin regime. But Putin’s audacious goal is to create the illusion that they are. "He’s trying to establish that our system is just as bad, just as corrupt, as his," says Brian Whitmore, a senior editor of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The first step of the campaign was to hack the computers of the Democratic National Committee and senior party figures and distribute — sometimes with alterations — material that was purported to show Clinton’s rigging of the system.

Next came the suggestions that the balloting itself might be tampered with. Most likely, that was the point of the hacking probes into the voting systems of more than 20 states, including key battlegrounds such as Pennsylvania and Florida. A joint statement by the Department of Homeland Security and the office of the Director of National Intelligence said it was unlikely voting systems could be tampered with “to alter actual ballot counts or election results.” But the reports of cyber-intrusions are by themselves enough to damage public confidence — which may be the point.

Read alsoClinton wants to investigate Putin and Assad's war crimes in SyriaTrump meanwhile plays his part; he could not be doing more to aid the Kremlin’s narrative if he were reading from a script.

Repeatedly warning that the election may be rigged, Trump says his "Stop the Steal" movement is planning to conduct its own exit polls outside key precincts. Its inevitable reports of "irregularities" will provide the predicate for Trump to claim fraud.

That, in turn, will prompt reactions like that already heard from a Trump supporter at a Mike Pence rally last week. After raising the specter of rigging, she said: "If Hillary Clinton gets in, I myself, I’m ready for a revolution, because we can’t have her in." After a thousand cable broadcasts of that moment, Putin surely was still smiling.

However, Putin understands that mobs are unlikely to mass in front of the White House or Congress. But rebellions can happen online - in a blizzard of Internet posts, reinforced by the Kremlin’s paid trolls, its satellite television network and the Trumpian corners of Fox, alleging that what Trump calls the "political establishment" has stolen the election for Clinton, the author says.

Read alsoNYT: Next U.S. president, Putin's fourth, inherits sinking Russia ties"That wouldn’t stop Clinton from taking office — any more than the Bolotnaya Square protest in Moscow prevented Putin’s presidential inauguration in May 2012," the article reads. "But Clinton would start her term politically wounded, both domestically and abroad. Putin will have obtained payback. And Trump will have shown himself to be a most useful idiot."

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