Despite the bemused façade of Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and Vladimir Putin, himself, when speaking about electoral interference, Russia is worried about present, and future sanctions. This concern is one reason why Russian bots are furiously gearing up for the midterm elections and continue to provoke the American people on both sides of the political divide, most recently over gun control that was revitalized by the brutal murder of 17 students at a Florida High School on Valentine’s Day.
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On April 21, 2015, CNN Money reported, “Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gave the first official estimate of the [sanctions] cost in a speech Tuesday.” Medvedev said the decision to annex Crimea had sparked a crisis that turned out to be "more difficult than even the most pessimistic expectations.” The dire situation hasn’t improved much for his country.
Medvedev estimated a cost to Russia of $26.7 billion in 2014 which, he said, could balloon to $80 billion in 2015. Trade with Western countries, also, plummeted, along with the ruble, and the personal nature of some sanctions hit the oligarch class, which is composed of Putin retainers, particularly hard. Russia’s misadventure in the Ukraine was aided, in no small part, by Trump’s former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, who is currently under indictment.
Russia was so highly motivated to end the U.S. economic blockade that it, naturally, gravitated towards Trump as the candidate most favorable to this goal. The reason why Trump would be their guy is because the sanctions were levied by President Obama, for whom Trump is the antidote. Trump wanted Russian help in the election, and asked for it, publicly, when he pleaded for it to find Hillary Clinton’s lost and/or deleted State Department emails
For Trump, there wasn’t much to fear from Russia, hence, Mike Flynn’s mission to the country, Don Jr.’s contacts, and Jared Kushner’s lame attempt to run a secret back-channel to Moscow, out of the Russian embassy in Washington where, he thought, U.S. intelligence couldn’t see what was happening. Though Vladimir Putin took steps to alleviate his country’s situation when he decreed a partial tax amnesty to recapture Russian money vaulted out of that country by rich Russians who’d hidden it, among other places, in New York real estate. The move, however, wasn’t enough to blunt the hardship caused by the sanctions.
The geopolitical reality is that Moscow desperately wanted help in ending what it felt was American interference in the affairs of a former Soviet satellite. The expansion of NATO, into areas that not long ago were under the sway of Russia, represented an impermissible economic and political encroachment to Moscow. Most people get it, but the president doesn’t seem to understand the global balance of power; and that’s not funny, at all. In fact, it could become tragic over time.