In a March interview with the Foreign Policy Research Institute, foreign intelligence authority Clint Watts theorized about the true motivation of Russia's meddling in the United States' electoral process: to demonstrate (and expedite the process of) western democracy's dilapidation. He hypothesized that 2016 was an integral year for Putin's plan to undermine American faith in their democratic system, and his theories were confirmed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
His talk detailed a noteworthy change in classic Russian warfare: from overwhelming the enemy with sheer military power to internally destroying the enemy without any military or civilian casualties -- with their own weapons. Russia is retiring its Cold War squadron of tanks and pods of nuclear submarines for simple mind games perpetrated by our own media.
Watts explains that American approval of Russia has risen by 20% in the past year through what he calls "the greatest infiltration endeavor." Russia seeks to create an ungovernable and divided America through the use of our own media, and, somewhere along the way, Putin became more popular.
There is evidence that, during the Cold War, the Soviet Union gave direction to state-sponsored think tanks to spread anti-American propaganda through academia. Today, government reports indicate that state-run media corporations such as Russia Today were enlisted for the same purpose. But Russia's strategy contains a vital, transnational component.
The Kremlin must acknowledge that the most effective propaganda has some truth to it, according to Watts. Perhaps Russia's meddling was intentionally a bit messy to allow for media hype and induce legitimate fear in Americans over tangible evidence, but whether or not they left a trail of breadcrumbs for American reporters, Americans have largely made up their minds about the fallibility of the 2016 elections. American media is primarily to thank for the rapid spread of this hysteria, so CNN and Fox News and anyone in-between have become Putin's henchmen of choice.
For the remainder of Donald Trump's presidency and maybe for the rest of democratic history, everyday Americans and scholars alike will debate about whether or not President Trump's four years were truly legitimate. The erosion of trust in American voters in their elected officials (and in the democratic institution itself) is key to the destruction of American democracy.
Putin wins again because, with the decrease in credibility of American democracy, on what merits can America effectively judge the failures of Russian "democracy"? International criticism is redirected towards the United States' failure to hold legitimate elections. The Russian government is internally bombarding Americans with reasons to feel insecure in their own democratic institutions, scattering public opinion and igniting internal political instability.
Attacks on the integrity of American democracy are coming to a polling station near you in 2018 and every day until then, courtesy of your favorite news site.