As the Democratic National Convention continues its week-long stay in Philadelphia, accusations of Russian hacking continue to cloud the proceedings. At this point, it seems likely that Russia is responsible. What’s less clear is what that will mean going forward. — Wired
Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, for a long time now, have aligned their statements and political actions. As it becomes more and more certain that Russia hacked into Democratic National Committee emails in what appears to be a weaponized information warfare attack on the U.S. electoral process, one has to seriously consider the notion that Trump stands to substantially benefit from such an act of international cyber-aggression.
When asked in December about the killing of journalists under Vladimir Putin, the Republican presidential candidate, who just the day before had called Putin “brilliant” and “a strong leader”, reluctantly admitted that such atrocities under Putin might possibly be a bad thing.
(Russia is one of the largest oil and gas producers in the world. As a state, it has put very little effort into developing renewable energy. Instead, it has focused an amazing attempt to militarily control and exploit an expanding range of Arctic oil and gas sources. Russia’s claimed greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals are rife with distortions and cherry picking, and the state is a well-known persecutor of environmentalists and climate change action advocates. What could a climate-change denier and fossil-fuel energy dominance advocate like Trump possibly have in common with Putin’s Russia? Image source: EIA.)
Trump went on to backhandedly defend Putin’s alleged poll-rigging and positively compared Russia, which is rated worse than Sudan and Iraq when it comes to press freedoms, to the United States. Implied was not only a kind of admiration in Trump of Putin, but for the kinds of oppressive political activities that denigrate the foundations of democracy itself.
This noted tendency to defend the political strongman is especially salient when you consider the fact that Putin has held growing autocratic power over a Russia now falling down the dark hole of ever-worsening human rights abuses and political persecution by various means for the past 16 years and shown all of the worst kinds of contempt for the electoral process. All of this served to highlight Trump’s callous disregard for a free press — one of the foundations of democracy here in the U.S.
Various astounded and befuddled Republicans, including the likes of George Will and Mitt Romney, showed a modicum of morality and quickly condemned Trump’s admiration for Putin. And CNN, though not as tonally taken aback as MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, noted the existence of a strange “bromance” between Trump and Putin.
Russian Petro-State Authoritarian and Trump Have a Lot in Common
Whether it’s an autocrat profiting from draconian laws, intimidation and human rights abuses in Russia or a corrupt billionaire rigging the game against struggling students for monetary gain in the U.S., it would appear that both Trump and Putin have quite a lot in common. And though political and economic bullying may seem the most obvious, there’s a deeper alignment here that we should not entirely ignore.
(Fracking wastelands like these would be expanded by a Trump energy policy which would broaden and extend fossil fuel dependence, setting us on a path toward increasingly more violent and harmful changes to the global climate. Russian fossil-fuel development policies run along similar lines. Trump fails to acknowledge climate change as a threat and has nominated a climate-change denier to sit as his energy adviser. Image source: Greenpeace.)
At issue is the fact that Russia is a state that has unwisely and irresponsibly bet a large share of its economic fortune on fossil fuel exploration and extraction. U.S. policies aimed at mitigating human-caused climate change by reducing fossil-fuel burning and increasing renewable energy access would, by extension, erode Russia’s fossil-fuel based economic model. Russian plans for using oil and gas as a lever to exert political influence over Europe and China also fades in a world that rapidly adopts renewable energy.
Hillary Clinton and a Democratic Party invigorated by Bernie Sanders have come to, more and more strongly, support the kind of needed action in the face of rapidly worsening human-caused warming. Donald Trump and the Republicans who support him are climate-change skeptics or deniers. Trump’s policies call for vastly expanded fracking, removal of supports for renewable energy like Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and an increasing dependence on and production of oil and gas. Such retrograde policies would set the U.S. back on a terribly damaging business-as-usual carbon-emissions path and secure the dominance of the kinds of polluting fuels that Putin’s Russia has irresponsibly bet its economic future upon.
Russian Hacking of the DNC in Context
Such an alignment of interests cannot be ignored, and nor should Trump’s and Putin’s mutual overtures or Trump’s defense of Putin’s various and noted abuses of power. It is in this context that the hacking of DNC emails, much like the hacking and misrepresentation of climate scientist emails over recent years, has occurred.
(NOAA’s red marble view of what business-as-usual fossil-fuel emissions looks like: a world sweltering beneath devastating global heat. Under energy policies supported by those like Trump and Putin, the world is bound to get to that wretched and wrecked state. Image source: NOAA.)
In this case, Trump’s alignment with Putin is concurrent with what appears to be an active effort of information warfare against the United States. Wired Magazine notes:
If the allegations do prove correct, this is an unprecedented step for Russia. Hacking is nothing new, but publicizing documents to attempt to sway an election certainly is. Putin would clearly prefer a Trump presidency. The billionaire Republican candidate is a longtime admirer of Putin’s, and has publicly stated that he wouldn’t necessarily defend NATO allies against a Russian invasion. To top it all off, Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, formerly worked as an advisor to Viktor Yanukovych, the Russian-backed President of Ukraine before he was ousted in 2014.
In addition, Trump’s own belligerence on the subject may well be crossing the line into an ongoing association with, and support of, an entity conducting harmful espionage operations against the U.S. government and its political leaders, and against the integrity of the process of establishing such a government. Wired, in a recent update:
In a press conference Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump invited Russia to retrieve “missing” emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and release them. Cybersecurity experts described the remarks as “unprecedented” and “possibly illegal.”
If even only some of this bears out and if the obvious alignments and motivations between Trump and the international fossil fuel establishment prove to be part of the motivator (pretty clear motive and pattern of behavior here folks), then it looks like the climate wars — which have been a vicious political and media undercurrent for years now — just went hot.