1. It’s Monday, December 12, 2016.
2. It’s the 25th anniversary of the Russian Federation’s breakoff from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. At that point, it was a mere formality – the Soviet Union, the mortal enemy of the United States in the first half of my life, was history.
For a while.
3. Are you as shocked as I am that the CIA and other American intelligence agencies believe the Russians acted to help Trump win the presidency?
That’s a trick question. Nobody with a brain is shocked by this.
The Russians’ collective thumb on the scale was revealed every time their tame pets at WikiLeaks released something else that was hacked from Democrats.
That said, there’s a two-part question worth asking.
4. Why would the Russians do it, and why now?
The Russians have been trying to unravel us since the days of the Soviet Union. Look at all the espionage cases of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. Look at the Cuban missile crisis and the Berlin Wall. The proxy wars and the “revolutions” in Latin America and Africa.
This is nothing new.
Historians have always believed the Russians’ motivation for doing anything is self-preservation. Yes, Russia is the biggest nation by size on Earth, and it possesses enormous natural resources and a good number of people.
But it has constantly fretted about enemies. In the past, those were Germany, Turkey and China, or their predecessor states.
Now, it is the United States, and the threat is more economic.
5. Because what happened here is about two o’s. Obama and oil.
President Obama might have famously pooh-poohed the threat from Russia in his debate with Mitt Romney in 2012. But Obama has been pretty clear-eyed about Russia and its latest incarnation of the tsars, Vladimir Putin.
He knew he couldn’t stop Putin from his landgrab in Ukraine when the Russians felt that changes in the Kiev government were making them insecure.
But the sanctions imposed were a slap that Putin resented. And Hillary Clinton would have been more of the same – an unacceptable option for Putin.
Then there’s oil. The Russian economy plunged into a deep recession last year after oil prices dropped worldwide, according to the CIA.
That’s because the Russians are heavily dependent on oil and other natural resources.
And you know what nation is using less oil? The United States.
One Obama administration success that doesn’t get as much notice as it should is the fact that this country is weaning itself from oil imports.
Part of that is improved fuel economy in our nation’s automotive fleet. Part of that is the surge in solar and wind power – you now can’t drive more than a mile or so without seeing solar panels somewhere.
And part of that is a little more of a mixed blessing – the rise of fracking as a way to extract oil in places that weren’t known as oil depositories, such as North Dakota and Ohio.
6. This hasn’t been good for Putin and Russia.
It also hasn’t been good for the oil industry and those dependent on it. Profits are down, hurting many of the companies, who were flush during the George W. Bush presidency when two of their own – Bush and Dick Cheney – were running things.
So look at the opportunity presented to Putin. Undermining the U.S. election could make sure his nemesis, Obama, wouldn’t have his legacy pass to his Secretary of State and, as a bonus, could help kickstart his moribund oil industry.
Especially with a stooge like Trump.
And with the selection of Rex Tillerson, the Exxon Mobil CEO and someone who has worked with Putin in the past, the deal is complete.
The effort to get oil flowing again, boosting Russia’s economy, can start. The national average for gas is $2.21 a gallon, and while that’s up about four cents since Trump’s election, it’s still well below what it was when Obama took office.
With oil-industry friendly policies and the recent OPEC decision to cut production, the slump might be coming to an end.
That helps Russia. A lot.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about how to respond.