On Wednesday the Trump administration issued an executive order announcing its intent to impose sanctions against any country caught screwing with US elections, and warned of additional sanctions over Russia's apparent use of chemical weapons. In response, a Russian troll farm laughed and wiped its ass with Trump's orders. This comes amid new reports that Russia made blazie threats of nuclear war to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis over a military buildup throughout Eastern Europe. Hopefully whoever wrote THE OP-ED doesn't have an itchy trigger finger.

Business Insider stumbled across a tidbit hidden away in Bob Woodward's new book about a conversation between Russian officials and Defense Secretary Mattis last year. According to Woodward, Russia told Mattis that it was considering using nuclear weapons against Baltic states. After Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Joseph Dunford changed their underwear, Woodward says they began treating Russia as a serious "existential threat." There's no context for why Russia said they might nuke NATO forces in the less sexy parts of Northeastern Europe, just the fact that Russia nonchalantly mentioned it was thinking about starting World War III. Thanks, Bob.

Without the proper context of the conversation it's impossible to know what the fuck was going through the vodka soaked minds of Kremlin officials, but history does hold clues about why Russia might drag the world into a post-apocalyptic nuclear holocaust. The former Soviet states we call the Baltics have resented Moscovites since their first miserable failures at annexing territory shortly after the Bolshevik revolution. These days NATO countries like Estonia hunt down Russia's "little green men" and curb stomp Russian fuckery as their patriotic duty. Since Russia invaded Georgia in 2014 they've been daring Putin's stooges to roll tanks across the border so they can get revenge for half a century of terrible food and fashion choices during the Cold War. To them, Russia has always been an evil empire, and for almost three decades people have celebrated their independence from Soviet occupation. It's logical for them to be on edge when they see Putin lying about screwing with anyones election, or invading former Soviet border states in order to make Russia great again.

Since Putin can't outright invade a country with his rusted and decaying joke of a military, he's resorted to old school espionage. Obama famously told Putin that the US could see Russian troop carriers heading towards Ukraine in 2015. Putin denied this, and then every brave/idiotic independent journo took it upon themselves to the put sketchy Russian speaking "freedom fighters" wearing green pajamas in front of a camera. The resulting civil war gave Paul Manafort a job, Putin control of the Black Sea, and the world a taste of the cyber war to come.

The bastards who debate this crap at terrible dinner parties call this "sharp power" because it doesn't necessarily involve meat grinders or piggy banks. While the US pushes for more sanctions (soft power), and the Baltics sharpen their knives (hard power), Russia's bullshit factories churn out lies and misinformation to swing public opinion. In the last few years they've gotten really good at shoving neo-fascist populists who complain about immigrants into mainstream politics all over the world. By coopting neo-Nazis, soccer hooligans, motorcycle gangs, and other right-wing fringe elements, Putin has created the appearance of a populist uprising. They've become ballsy enough that clickbait troll farms like "USA Really" are openly admitting to AP reporters about their intention to screw with US elections, brushing off threats of additional sanctions by saying, "There's such a huge quantity of sanctions, everyone's getting them confused."

The sanctions the Trump administration has threatened to impose are limited, and still require the administration to acknowledge election fuckery, be it from Russia, Iran, or North Korea. They've begrudgingly slapped sanctions on a number of prominent Russian oligarchs and spies, but their reluctance to enforce them has allowed Russia to carry out vengeful murder crusades against Putin's enemies in the UK. Back in August senators Lindsey Graham and Bob Menendez attempted to pass a "bill from hell" that would cripple the Russian energy industry, restrict the transfer of rubles, and require a two-thirds Senate vote for the US to leave NATO -- and that's in addition to seven other bills proposed by members of Congress -- but legislation has stalled while politicians hits the campaign trail. So now political geeks debate the viability of more sanctions because they have nothing better to do on a Saturday night.

Trump may publicly defended Putin, deny Russian fuckery, and talk about dismantling NATO, but the Pentagon has ignored him. After seeing Russia build up its military presence in Syria, Poland, the Baltics, and Nordic states, the Pentagon began quietly shuffling around soldiers and resources. While Russia quietly helps Assad, and sets up fiefdoms in Africa, Uncle Sam is saying, "Peek-a-boo, mother fucker." The military is building better diplomatic relationships with Nordic states, carrying out cold weather training missions, and the Marine Corps has even been stashing gear in a series of Eastern European caves in the event of a land war. The Air Force has been spending millions to rebuild old NATO bases in the UK, Hungary, and Germany. Right now they're testing a "kit" that can retrofit podunk airstripsin the middle of nowhere into makeshift air bases. Trump may complain about the #DeepState undermining his authority, but our military doesn't fuck around with authoritarians.

Foreign policy geeks have been warning about Russian fuckery since before George W. Bush looked longingly into Putin's eyes. At the time "W" claimed to see the goodness in Putin's soul, but we now know this was all a ruse to hide a horrific void filled with the bodies of political dissidents, and the pee pee tape. Trump's ascendancy to the golden throne has emboldened criminal regimes like Russia, and his desire to be part of a club whose memberships includes genocidal lunatics, human slavers, and paranoid despots is as farcial as it is sobering. His gut instinct, he says, tells him "Putin's not a bad guy," but this is the same instinct that told us, trade wars are are easy, treason isn't a crime, and a bankrupt casino in New Jersey isn't a monument to a lifetime of failure. Knowing this we can only conclude that Trump either inherited W's neo-conservative Shining and knows something the rest of us don't, or that the pee hooker tape is really embarrassing.

[AP / Business Insider / Reuters ]

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Dominic Gwinn

Dominic is a broke journalist in Chicago. You can find him in a dirty bar talking to weirdos, or in a gutter taking photos.


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