RUSSIA/US: KREMLIN FALLOUT FROM MEDIA EXPOSURE OF MOSCOW’S INTERFERENCE IN THE US PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
Kremlin orders senior staff to remain silent in media and private on allegations of Russian interference in US presidential campaign
Senior figure however confirms gist of allegations and reports IVANOV sacked as Head of Administration on account of giving PUTIN poor advice on issue. VAINO selected as his replacement partly because he was not involved in Pro-TRUMP, anti-CLINTON operation/s
Russians do have further ‘kompromat’ on CLINTON (e-mails) and considering disseminating it after Duma (legislative elections) in late September. Presidential spokesman PESKOV continues to lead on this
However, equally important is Kremlin objective to shift policy consensus favourably to Russia in US post-OBAMA whoever wins. Both presidential candidates’ opposition to TPP and TTIP viewed as a result in this respect
Senior Russian diplomat withdrawn from Washington embassy on account of potential exposure in US presidential election operation/s
Speaking in confidence to a trusted compatriot in mid-September 2016, a senior member of the Russian Presidential Administration (PA) commented on the political fallout from recent western media revelations about Moscow’s intervention, in favour of Donald TRUMP and against Hillary CLINTON, in the US presidential election. The PA official reported that the issue had become incredibly sensitive and that President PUTIN had issued direct orders that Kremlin and government insiders should not discuss it in public or even in private.
Despite this, the PA official confirmed, from direct knowledge, that the gist of the allegations was true. PUTIN had been receiving conflicting advice on interfering from three separate and expert groups. On one side had been the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergei KISLYAK and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together with an independent and informal network run by presidential foreign policy advisor, Yuri USHAKOV (KISLYAK’s predecessor in Washington) who had urged caution and the potential negative impact on Russia from the operation/s. On the other side was former PA Head, Sergei IVANOV, backed by Russian Foreign Intelligence (SVR), who had advised PUTIN that the pro-TRUMP, anti-CLINTON operation/s would be both effective and plausibly deniable with little blowback. The first group/s had been proven right and this had been the catalyst in PUTIN’s decision to sack IVANOV (unexpectedly) as PA Head in August. His successor, Anton VAINO, had been selected for the job partly because he had not been involved in the US presidential election operation/s.
Continuing on this theme, the senior PA official said the situation now was that the Kremlin had further ‘kompromat’ on candidate CLINTON and had been considering releasing this via “plausibly deniable” channels after the Duma (legislative) elections were out of the way in mid- September. There was however a growing train of thought and associated lobby, arguing that the Russians could still make candidate CLINTON look ‘weak and stupid’ by provoking her into railing against PUTIN and Russia without the need to release more of her e-mails. Presidential Spokesman, Dmitriy PESKOV remained a key figure in the operation, although any final decision on dissemination of further material would be taken by PUTIN
The senior PA official also reported that a growing element in Moscow’s intervention in the US presidential election campaign was the objective of shifting the US political consensus in Russia’s perceived interests regardless of who won. It basically comprised of pushing candidate CLINTON away from President OBAMA’s policies. The best example of this was that both candidates now openly opposed the draft trade agreements, TPP and TTIP, which were assessed by Moscow as detrimental to Russian interests. Other issues where the Kremlin was looking to shift the US policy consensus were Ukraine and Syria. Overall however, the presidential election was considered still to be too close to call.
Finally, speaking separately to the same compatriot, a senior Russian MFA official reported that as a prophylactic measure, a leading Russian diplomat, Mikhail KULAGIN, had been withdrawn from Washington at short notice because Moscow feared his heavy involvement-in the US presidential election operation, including the so-called veterans’ pensions ruse (reported previously), would be exposed in the media there. His replacement, Andrei BONDAREV however was clean in this regard.
The substance of what was reported by the senior Russian PA official in paras 1 and 2 above, including the reasons for Sergei IVANOV’s dismissal, was corroborated independently by a former top level Russian intelligence officer and Kremlin insider, also in mid-September.