CIA and State Department veterans: on protests, Trump’s chances for re-election and Russian intervention
Mass protests in the United States, caused by the death of African-American George Floyd, had real reasons, however, both local radicals and Moscow will try to use them to their maximum advantage. Most American security experts from the former military, diplomats and CIA and FBI officers who ForumDaily managed to talk to agree with this opinion.
In search of the “Russian trace”
“I’m sure that Russia will certainly use in its“ hybrid war ”all the differences, discord and difficulties that the United States is currently facing. I think that in the upcoming elections, Russian trolls will play on both sides of the conflict, as they already did. They will use both social networks and standard propaganda through RT or Sputnik. However, I think that if you had the opportunity to ask Putin directly: who would you like to see as president, he would prefer Trump, ”said Stephen Hall, the former head of the“ Russian department ”of the CIA.
At the same time, the former intelligence officer is confident that, in comparison with the previous presidential election, Russian intervention will become more sophisticated.
“I think they have learned from the 2016 elections and the midterm elections of 2018, and, based on my own open source research, I believe that their work will be more difficult to track on social networks. Recently, for example, one woman from the UK was very active in public space. Only later it turned out that she worked for RT and did not tell anyone about it. The Russians also hone their skills under the “foreign flag”, became more careful in coordinating their information campaigns, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to determine what the Russian government is behind a particular operation, ”he adds.
The same opinion is shared by Keith Mines, a former diplomat and US special forces officer who worked abroad for 25 years.
“Russia will intervene, and, unfortunately, given the“ complicated ”relations of our president with Vladimir Putin, we have done very little to prevent Moscow from using its usual tools. I can only assume that the Russians will do the same thing they did last time, but with greater efficiency and wider coverage, given the continued decline in the influence of traditional media in America and the over-reliance of the population on vulnerable social networks, ”he said.
At the same time, well-known American publicist and analyst David Sutter notes: Russian influence is not as extensive as it is customary to think about, and American problems are mostly internal.
“Of course, Moscow is trying to exploit US instability. But it is important to understand that the situation in America is very complicated without the participation of Russia. It arose under the influence of internal causes. Of course, the Russians are trying and will try to play on our contradictions, but, in my opinion, their role in the current conflicts is small, ”he said.
Reasons for protests
Former FBI agent Myron Fuller, who spent 31 years in the service, recalls - situations similar to what we see today have already taken place in the history of the United States.
“Followers of the Republican Party and Donald Trump personally view protests in America as a form of“ internal terrorism. ” But if we recall, Martin Luther King’s protests for civil rights or actions against the Vietnam War were also regarded by the conservative part of America as civil unrest caused solely by anarchists. When I joined the FBI in 1971, with the approval of Congress, Hoover hired 1000 new agents to fight the "urban terrorists," mainly targeting blacks who dared to protest. At the same time, part of the African American movements, for example, the early Black Panthers, really resorted to violence - as, for example, their “fighting wing” of the Black Liberation Army. Several years passed before the American public began to realize that the protests did have good reasons, and got used to being patient with them, which ultimately led to the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam. It worked then, and now, against the background of social networks, it will work even faster, ”he said.
Former US State Department spokesman Keith Mines also believes that what was happening already had analogues in American history.
“The protests quickly polarized, like most problems in the US. From the point of view of the left flank, they are a natural reaction to the systematic racism and the growth of militarization, observed since September 11, 2001. For right-wing people, they are an indicator of chaos, which is hiding under the tinge of formal legitimacy, and reveal that in fact we do not have law and order. The same vision and a similar social situation were observed during the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, up to using the same slogans that Trump uses today - the “silent majority” and “law and order”. But since the riots seem to give way to more systematic peaceful protests, I think that more and more Americans are in favor of police reform, to the extent possible clearing it of racism, ”he said.
In the United States, there are individual manifestations of racism, however, most often only at the household level, David Sutter admits.
“I think that at some level, popular discontent is justified, because at the micro level there are minor racial conflicts - it is true that they rarely end in murders. It is impossible to say with absolute certainty that the police always behave correctly. In situations of conflict and tension, people can break certain rules, but criminals in some cases can provoke the police. The widespread video of the murder of Floyd turned out to be so shocking, and it so accurately symbolizes the relationship that many people consider typical, that it served as a catalyst for protests. African Americans were convinced that the policeman behaved this way only in relation to the black man, and would never have allowed himself such a thing in relation to the white man, ”the expert argues.
In turn, former US Army sergeant and security specialist at The Intelligence Community, Inc. Eric Tallant believes the mass protests were largely due to socio-economic reasons.
“Protests are a direct response to two main factors. Firstly, this is the time when they happened - at that moment when the US population felt especially restless and insecure. The coronavirus epidemic has led many people to be unemployed, and therefore fear the future. In times of uncertainty, even a single outbreak, such as the murder of George Floyd, can cause a serious reaction. In addition, people really have the right to worry about the use of force in the police. Any person who dies at the hands of the state can only be killed in accordance with a specific procedure. The death penalty, of course, cannot be carried out by a police officer for something that can be easily interpreted as racism. Thus, in protest, people express their legitimate concern and anger, which are exacerbated by the uncertainty caused by quarantine due to coronavirus, ”he explains.
Regarding the presidential election, according to a former senior CIA officer with nearly 30 years of intelligence experience, John Cypher, it is difficult to predict how the protests will affect Americans' political sympathies.
“It is very difficult to predict how protests or riots will affect political choices. On the one hand, a serious rebuff to police brutality and ill-treatment of blacks is seen in society. This momentum could potentially help Democrats. However, the right wing and the incumbent president can use unrest, violence and property damage to scare their electorate. People always have a fear of chaos or change. To win, the Democrats will need to continue to push for change without annoying moderate people who can vote for both Republicans and Democrats, ”he said.
According to the CIA veteran, at the moment it seems that Trump’s rating is falling as he continues to make mistakes, but it is possible that the current president will not use the most honest ways to stay in power.
“He will strive to keep the Democrats away from the polls and continue to do everything possible to cause fear and confusion, while trying to warm up his electorate. I’m afraid that regardless of the election results, these actions will push the cultural war and will continue to set Americans against each other, ”he fears.
Keith Mines also believes that if Trump wins, there is no hope for reconciliation of the extremely divided American society, since the split is beneficial to the incumbent president. In the case of Biden’s victory, in his opinion, the intensity will decrease somewhat, at least because without Trump, the Republican Party will begin to act in more traditional and rational ways. Myron Fuller, in turn, believes that regardless of who becomes president, the split in American society is so deep that he will not be able to heal quickly, and attitude to blacks and religion will for a long time be a stumbling block for people of different views.
Meanwhile, David Sutter and Eric Tellant believe that even in this situation, Trump has a chance to win the upcoming elections.
“It can still change before the election. I do not think that the fact of the protests will cause a negative reaction of people, but they will certainly react negatively if the pogroms and other crimes of the anarchist groups continue. However, I think that the two main factors that will affect Trump's rating will be the economy and the coronavirus. If he can cope effectively with the epidemic, his chances of re-election will still remain high, ”says David Sutter.
Eric Tellant agrees with him.
“If people are confident in their economic future, Trump will be re-elected. It is important to note that Joe Biden basically remains in the shadows. No one really knows what he stands for in politics or in international relations. We know Trump, and his program primarily concerns the economy. If the president and the Senate pay compensation to people or can ensure they get back to work, Trump can be elected again, ”the former military man said.
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