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Monday, September 6, 2021

How Russia Seeks to Hurt America (aka The Trump/MAGA Playbook)

  Vladimir Putin’s playbook for destroying western democracy found a useful idiot in Donald Trump, because that’s exactly what the “Make America Great Again” theme is all about.

That’s a bold statement, and I realize it will annoy the disgraced president’s fan base, so  let me spell it out for them.

I was a student of Russian and of the Soviet Union for several years in the 1960s. As such I even subscribed to Izvestia for a year, and I visited the Soviet Union four times — once as a tourist with an MIT alumni group in 1978 and three times as a “citizen diplomat” with the Center for Soviet-American Dialogue in the Gorbachev era of the late 1980s.

“Disinformation” didn’t appear in English dictionaries until the late 1980s, but I first learned that term in the early 1960s as the Russian word дезинформация. It is indeed a Soviet concept introduced and perfected by the KGB and one of its premiere chiefs, Vladimir Putin.

The United States is not the only western democracy in which disinformation has been, and continues to be, deployed by the Russians. It played a big and successful role in the Brexit campaign, since breaking up the European Union is as much a goal of Vladimir Putin as is the creating of chaos and irreparable partisanship in the United States.  And this Monday, a news item caught my attention that Russia is mounting a similar effort in Germany to support the election of an anti-EU candidate to succeed Angela Merkel.

“America First” is just what Putin wanted, which is why he mobilized multiple social media channels in the United States to turn public opinion against his arch-enemy Hillary Clinton toward electing Donald Trump.

At first Putin merely sought revenge against Clinton, who, as Secretary of State, had attacked Putin’s own election victory as corrupt, but the election of a president, Doanld Trump, who would balk at supporting NATO and who also publicly supported Brexit, was a dream come true for him.

As I wrote in my Nov. 15, 2018, page 3 column, “Yes, the Russians Wanted Trump Over Hillary, But Their Real Goal Is to Divide Americans.” You can download it at Also check out my Feb. 27, 2020, column, “Why Wouldn’t the Russians Want Trump Re-Elected? Look at His Accomplishments.”

I’ve also written previously that the MAGA playbook is also inspired by the playbook of fascism, in that it includes the concerted effort to reduce trust in the country’s electoral system, in the free press, and in the university system. I also wrote in my April 9, 2020, “Talking Turkey” column (see it at about how Donald Trump’s mentor and legal counsel, Roy Cohn, taught Trump the key rules to be followed by an aspiring autocrat: 1) Never settle or admit anything, never admit a mistake; 2) If someone hits you, hit back harder and never stop; 3) Even when you lose, claim victory; 4) Tell a lie long enough and people will think it’s the truth. 5) Use lawsuits like machine gun bullets; and 6) Take no prisoners.

Creating distrust in the free media and university professors is essential for success, because they are the ones who know the history I outlined above and are going to educate the public about it, so they must be labeled as “fake news” or “elites.” Throw in “socialist” and “communist” and repeat, repeat, repeat until believed.

We still don’t know the reason that Donald Trump would never say a negative word about Putin. We know that even during the 2016 campaign (which he thought he’d lose), he had his “fixer” Michael Cohen trying to secure from Putin a Trump Tower in Moscow, but what was exchanged during his secret solitary meeting with Putin in Helsinki, following which he confiscated his interpreter’s notes?  Was he just a “useful idiot” or was something more sinister going on?



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