What if Russian interference in the US elections really is not as cunning and sophisticated as it has been portrayed in the media? And all the Facebook advertising and black ops were just blundering attempts to further the success of now-entrenched Russian kleptocracy? That’s the thesis behind Masha Gessen’s recent article in The New Yorker:
The story is not that Putin is masterminding a vast and brilliant attack on Western democracy. The story, it appears, is that the Russian Mafia state is cultivating profit-yielding relationships with the aspiring Mafia boss of the U.S. and his band of crooks, subverting democratic institutions in the process.
Gessen pooh-poohs the idea that there is any grand strategy behind what the Russians have been doing. She points to Bálint Magyar’s work on the advent of a “Mafia State” in Hungary under ostensibly democratically elected Victor Orbán. His book, Post-Communist Mafia State is published by the Central European University – the school that Orbán has worked successfully to drive out of Hungary.
Gessen’s main point is that if you are looking for the standard political logic behind Russian interference, you are wasting your time. The only logic that fits is mafia logic: if it is profitable and enhances the status of the boss, then it is worth it, whether or not it is something good for the state.
It is a grim view of Russian from an insider. And a sobering view of the current White House occupant as someone who jealously covets the loyal machinery that his Russian counterpart commands. And not just Russian, but strongmen the world over, including criminals like Duarte in the Philippines and Kim Jong Un in North Korea.