Quite a guy, that Vladimir Putin: first, he dismembers Georgia, to show the mouthy reformist President Mikheil Saakashvili who’s boss, and cut himself in on a major regional organized crime base. Then, he severs Crimea from Ukraine and unleashes a brutal war of secession in the eastern third of that country.
Through all that, he manages to become the world’s biggest-ever sports doper, defying detection science by forcing Russian athletes to be chemically-improved to post a few more Olympic medals on his watch.
And now the devastation of Aleppo in defense of the indefensible Bashar al-Assad.
Oh, and did I forget the corruption of the 2016 American Presidential and Congressional elections?
Yes, that, too, seems to be the work of Russian President Vladimir Putin. On that, almost everyone in American intelligence is in agreement. Where there is disagreement is on what Putin was after – just bullying America? Or undermining and discrediting American democracy? Or tipping the election itself to Donald Trump. The last idea, endorsed by the CIA, is the outlier. But none of the other agencies that wouldn’t go that far have said they think the CIA is wrong. They just prefer the proverbial Scottish judgment – not proved.
The beneficiary seems grateful: loudly dismissing the charges against Russia, and dissing the agencies and people who work in intelligence for bringing him the bad news.
Of Donald Trump, it must be said, he’s not as smart as he thinks he is. But no one could be.
It never mattered before, because in his universe, sheer savage hunger and drive could overrun smarts every time. Another law of that universe – Donald Trump’s little theatre of the mind – is a man of honor always pays his debts.
Thus, not just, “Why Russia, why not China, why not some guy with a laptop,” but, for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the guy who’s done the secret handshake with Putin.
Without smarts, though, savage hunger and mob loyalty can overrun you right off a cliff.
Shane Harris has recently moved from The Daily Beast to the Wall Street Journal. He has been covering the rise of political cybercrime in 2016, but with the perspective and depth of knowledge evident in his widely respected 2014 book @War on cyberwar, cybercrime and cyber security.