"Russiagate" has been the lead news for the Americans for the past few days.
Robert Mueller, the US Special Counsel and former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), has been heading an investigation into the alleged "Russian interference" in the 2016 US Presidential elections since May 2017. Mueller released an indictment on 16 February 2018, charging 13 Russian citizens, and three Russian entities for having engaged in "operations to interfere with elections and political processes" in the United States.
The main entity charged in the indictment is Internet Research Agency LLC (IRA LLC), reportedly belonging to the Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin. The 12 other individuals mentioned in the indictment are accused of having "worked in various capacities" to carry out IRA LLC's "interference operations targeting the United States".
It is alleged that the accused persons and organisations posed as Americans, and created fake US personas to operate social media pages and groups to attract US audiences. These groups and pages "addressed divisive US political and social issues," says the document. The strategic goal of IRA LLC was to "sow discord in the US political system, including the 2016 US presidential election". The indictment says that the accused "posted derogatory information about a number of candidates", and that by early to mid-2016, their operations included "supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton".
However, Rob Goldman, the Vice-President of Facebook ads, tweeted that most of the Russian advertisements on the social media platform came after the elections.
"I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitively that swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal. The majority of the Russian ad spend happened AFTER the election. We shared that fact, but very few outlets have covered it because it doesn’t align with the main media narrative of Trump and the election," he said.
There are at least four significant points to note here, on the basis of available information.
One, the indictment doesn't talk of any Russian government involvement in the 2016 US presidential elections. The Russian government or the organisations named in the indictment have not rigged the US elections or hacked the voting machines.
Two, the claims made in the indictment suggest that IRA LLC was involved in a commercial marketing scheme, intended to make money as described in detail here. After all, peddling sensationalist content targeting US audiences is lucrative business, as even teenagers in Macedonia running fake news websites found. What they cared about was money, not what they were promoting through their sites. And they have the "finest traditions" of corporate media houses like The New York Times and The Washington Post to draw upon in order to create fake news!
Three, the money spent by the Russian company was embarrassingly low. Many US media outlets made the claim that $1.25 million per month was spent by IRA LLC for their operations in the US. But the indictment actually says that the company's operation, named "Project Lakhta", also involved domestic audiences within Russia and others targeting foreign audiences in various countries including the US. By in or around September 2016, the company's monthly budget for Project Lakhta was over 1.25 million US dollars – which included the budget for project-related operations in all countries.
One only needs to compare this with the actual campaign expenses of the two main candidates in the US presidential elections. The Trump campaign raised $957.6 million as of December 31, 2016 and spent 99 per cent of it, while the Clinton campaign raised $1.4 billion and spent 98 per cent of it.
The money spent by the Russian company was peanuts in comparison with these humongous sums.
Four, and this is the most important and obvious, all these allegations pale into insignificance when compared with the political interference that the US government has been engaged in, all over the world.
The US has gone to war with numerous countries – most recently in Iraq, Libya and Syria – because their rulers’ policies weren’t sufficiently beneficial to American corporations. It has massacred millions and wiped out the livelihoods of even more people. The US war machine is the biggest threat to this planet and its inhabitants. Even when it doesn't go to war directly, the US interferes with political processes in every corner of the world by funding political groups of its choice, including terrorist groups as we have seen in Afghanistan and Syria. In 2006, the US had spent $1.9 million to help Fatah in the Palestinian elections, and when they lost, the Americans refused to accept the election results!
The US had interfered in India too, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was the US ambassador to India from 1973 to 1975 admitted in his 1978 book A Dangerous Place:
"We had twice, but only twice, interfered in Indian politics to the extent of providing money to a political party. Both times this was done in the face of a prospective communist victory in state elections, once in Kerala and once in West Bengal, where Calcutta is located. Both times the money was given to the Congress Party which had asked for it."
The claims by the corporate media and the Democratic Party establishment centred around Hillary Clinton – who as Secretary of State advised Obama to go to war with Syria and Libya, for instance – that the Russian government is behind her defeat are beyond ridiculous.
And to anybody outside the US of A, the US establishment whining about “outside interference” in its political processes sounds utterly laughable.
But the Russiagate propanda does serve a purpose. As Rob Urie points out:
The most cynically brilliant outcome of the ‘blame Russia’ campaign has been to neuter left activism by focusing the attack on Donald Trump rather than the interests he represents. As evidence, the proportion of Goldman Sachs alumni in Mr. Trump’s administration approximates that in Mr. Obama’s and what was expected for Mrs. Clinton’s. If the problem is Donald Trump, then the solution is ‘not Trump.’ However, if the problem is that the rich substantially control American political outcomes, how would electing ‘not Trump’ bring about resolution?