Russian President Vladimir Putin may have been driven by burning hatred and a wounded ego, not just geo-politics, to order interference in the recent US election, a long-awaited intelligence report has suggested.
As The New Daily reported on Saturday, the USA’s top three covert intelligence agencies — the CIA, FBI and NSA — have made public their joint conclusion that Russia attempted to win Donald Trump the presidency by a variety of means, including stealing and leaking thousands of Democratic Party emails.
The 25-page declassified version of the report alleges that Mr Putin personally “ordered an influence campaign”, not just because he saw the US as a threat to Russia’s world power, but also to “denigrate Secretary Clinton” because of a long personal grudge — and to rehabilitate Russia’s broken public image after the Olympic doping scandal.
“Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him,” the intelligence report concluded.
“Putin [also] publicly pointed to the Panama Papers disclosure and the Olympic doping scandal as US-directed efforts to defame Russia, suggesting he sought to use disclosures to discredit the image of the United States and cast it as hypocritical.”
Mr Putin, a former KGB operative, is thought to be vain and to have a long memory of personal slights. He reportedly enjoys plastic surgery and winning rigged ice hockey matches against underlings.
Mrs Clinton is one of the US public officials who has done the most to fight back against Russia’s, and thus his, growing influence in world affairs.
The Obama administration’s foreign policy was usually one of collaboration, appeasement and consensus-building. An example is the thawing of Cuban relations. But when President Barack Obama tried to ‘reset’ the relationship with the Kremlin and put the Cold War years in the past, Mrs Clinton, as secretary of state, remained sceptical and vocally critical of Mr Putin.
Mr Putin no doubt remembers, perhaps with deep-seated resentment, that when he annexed part of Ukraine in 2014, Mrs Clinton likened him to Adolf Hitler, the Nazi dictator who killed thousands of Russians in World War II.
“Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the ’30s,” she said at the time.
In 2008, she joked that as a former KGB agent Mr Putin by definition “doesn’t have a soul”.
Even before that, as a senator, Mrs Clinton strongly criticised Mr Putin while she served on the powerful Armed Services Committee.
And as first lady, her husband, then-president Bill Clinton, encouraged NATO to drop bombs in Yugoslavia in order to stop Yugoslavian soldiers from persecuting the Albanian population in the disputed territory of Kosovo. The military action was strongly opposed by Russia.
If the Russians did interfere in her electoral battle against Donald Trump, then it may well have been a cold serve of revenge. But it also may not prove to be the end of Mrs Clinton’s political career.
New reports suggest she is being courted and cajoled to run for mayor of the city of New York, where she has lived and represented as senator for many years. Despite the victory of Mr Trump, another New York resident, Mrs Clinton won the five voting districts of New York resoundingly, taking almost 80 per cent of the vote.
The aforementioned intelligence report, the most detailed public account to date of Russia’s alleged efforts to interfere in US democracy, does not seem to have swayed the opinion of Mr Trump.
The President-elect has repeatedly questioned the assessment by US intelligence agencies that the Kremlin interfered in the election. After reading the report, he took to Twitter to say “only ‘stupid’ people or fools” would dismiss closer ties with Russia.