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Putin’s playbook

Russia wants to create a binary split so severe that it fractures the United States

Joe Heslin is a marketing strategist whose eponymous business can be found at joeheslin.com.

Brattleboro

The more we push the collusion narrative, the less we see what Vladimir Putin’s objective is: destabilization.

Was there collusion between Donald Trump and Russia? Yes, and yet, it resided near the edge of plausible deniability.

But that’s hardly the point.

The point is that Putin is interested in destabilizing the West by backing potential despots (Marine Le Pen and other nationalists in Europe) and breaking international power blocs (the European Union, NATO).

Look at Russia’s larger narrative over the last six years (and more):

1) Increase the number of privately held weapons by pushing an “arm everyone” agenda through right-wing groups and gun-advocacy groups.

2) Create a narrative that a “shadow government” is working within the halls of power to take away citizen rights.

3) Build an external enemy that is scapegoated for all ills (immigrants = terrorists).

4) Create binary information/perspective sources that make the only logical explanation of the views of the other side that they are a) evil and/or b) willfully ignorant.

Now press number 4 until the other (libiots or fascists) becomes an existential threat.

Add salt to taste and you have the makings of civil disease.

* * *

It isn’t about the president receiving help or support from Putin — he doesn’t really care about Trump or the Republican agenda.

He just wants to create a disruption in the status quo to have it swing wildly to an extreme (though he does have an affection for fascists in the West). It’s about creating a binary split so severe that it fractures the union.

Notice how many acts by Trump seem intentionally cruel to the sensibilities of the left. The right is working to offend and enrage the left, not just injure their agenda.

* * *

What might the next steps and directions be?

1) Putin will more boldly meddle in the midterms, which means he feels he either has enough on powerful members of the American right to force them to ignore his meddling or he is pretty sure that they are venal enough to not look a proverbial gift horse in the mouth.

This will all be intentionally shown to the left so as to increase their fury by triggering their sense of fairness — a core tenet of liberalism — thus continuing their descent into incivility.

2) Putin will ride the blue wave: this is just allowing the madness of King Don to be revealed and the country will eat itself through partisan sniping and grandstanding.

The (red-hat) right will feel the left has stolen their leader by following through on threats of impeachment. The (Republican) right will have gotten their agenda pushed through and will happily abandon Trump for Pence (Trump was always Pence’s stalking horse), but with enough bluster to keep attention off of them and to focus on the now-bloodthirsty left.

They will hope that the ballooning rage on both sides won’t catch a spark from one of the hundreds of issues that will ignite the left into all-out revolution.

3) Putin will give power to the aggrieved, possibly helping the left in the midterms as he did with the right in 2016. He will do so in such a way as to make it seem under the radar, but he’s banking on the left being as venal and hateful as the right (which they are) and turning a blind eye to that assistance as they’d rationalize it as a balancing or correction.

The problem is that they would then also be guilty of complicity and collusion, thus pulling them off their high horses and, with them, the whole system into chaos.

Destabilization and chaos are the only intended outcomes of Putin. The more we point fingers internally, the happier he is.

Putin’s playbook isn’t Mein Kampf, it’s Faust.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #480 (Wednesday, October 10, 2018). This story appeared on page D1.

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