In my column last week, I concluded by suggesting that the party most responsible for the rise of the QAnon movement in the U.S., and thus most responsible for the sacking of the Capitol on Jan. 6, was none other than Vladimir Putin, or the Russian state.
The source of the line of evidence that can show this is contained in the Mueller Report. It includes the damning documentation provided by the seminal so-called Steele Dossier of 2016. In that accumulation of raw data was enough source material to fully expose the Putin-Russia operation against the U.S. democracy, but it was so attacked and sidetracked in the Mueller investigation itself that it was soon considered discredited.
But it is my humble opinion that was the Putin connection to QAnon and the siege of the U.S. Capitol confirmed and came to light in a demonstrable way, then the American public would be astonished, exposed to the deeper level of treachery involved in that event and all that led up to it. Also, many fellow travelers among U.S. citizens who may have either participated in the sacking or sympathized with it will have to face up to the fact they were siding with a sworn strategic military enemy of the U.S. as a nation. This might give a number of them pause.
But delving into the nefarious realm of covert intelligence operations is not something U.S. intelligence agencies are wont to make public. The role of the Russians in manipulating social media in both the 2016 and 2020 U.S. presidential elections, for example, was something they felt they could report.
The more hands-on role of Russian spies and agents manipulating U.S. political operations more directly is much different for them, for the reason that they don’t want to expose their own counterspy efforts in the process. So the bigger part of the game between the superpowers is played behind the scenes, even in this year when so much of the Russians’ efforts came above ground in the form of the mobilization of Trump’s shock troops at the sacking of the Capitol.
In terms of politics in the U.S., the Russians operate on numerous levels, often, sadly, in cooperation with self-serving elements on the U.S political scene who feel they stand to gain by tacit cooperation with our own nation’s sworn enemies. Of course, Trump himself falls into this realm, but also a key handful of rightwing major party political figures, all Republicans at this point.
The major Russian intelligence operation in the U.S. is among those of the so-called lunatic fringe, the marginal numbers of groups and organizations that are clearly outside the mainstream of U.S. politics but who in recent years have begun to assert more and more influence. Here is where QAnon operates, but some of its tentacles are now extending into the Republican Party’s stable of elected officials.
Pro-Trump fringe figures like Roger Stone, Alex Jones, Steve Bannon and Gen. Michael Flynn roam in the same circles as media sorts like the late Rush Limbaugh and Fox’s Sean Hannity and, as a newbie competing to be the new Trump, Tucker Carlson. These all move in and out from establishment to fringe political circles essentially carrying banners for Moscow, which take the form of hate and anger-driven divide and conquer tactics against American culture and its political democracy.
The Steele Dossier caught Gen. Flynn, for example, cavorting in Moscow amid a major assemblage of U.S. fringe political groups, there with hands open to grovel for some Moscow love for their devotion to its cause, figures such as the Green Party presidential candidate in 2016 and representatives of the Lyndon LaRouche organization in the U.S.
Flynn’s treachery was so blatant that he couldn’t stay in the Trump administration for more than a couple months. But other fringe groups did carry out their roles of turning the U.S. population against mainstream politics, altogether, and toward Trump in particular.
Soviet/Russian operations in the U.S. didn’t begin with this. They go back at least to the 1960s amid the U.S. counterculture.
(To be continued).
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at [email protected]