- Leaked documents purportedly from the Kremlin claim that Putin planned to sow discord by supporting Trump.
- The reported Russian plan worked remarkably well.
- Sparking dissent and division is a new way to attack democracies around the world.
- See more stories on Insider's business page.
Leaked documents reportedly from the Kremlin suggest that Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a concerted effort to sow chaos in the US with a plan to "facilitate" Donald Trump winning the presidency in 2016.
The plan worked.
In the biggest upset in modern political history, Trump stunned America and the world to become the 45th president of the US. And it was just as divisive as Putin reportedly desired.
The documents, which The Guardian first reported on, serve as an eye-opener as to how Putin capitalized on the divisiveness of American politics leading up to the contentious presidential election, and sowed dissent to further those divides.
According to the papers, Russian officials believed a Trump win would cause internal turmoil in the US and weaken the nation on the world stage. Putin approved a bold plan to use "all possible force" to help move Trump toward victory, the documents say.
Russia's "active measures" were a way to defeat its adversaries with "force of politics rather than the politics of force," according to Clint Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Putin's victories extended beyond winning any single election, Watts writes. His greatest success was building sympathetic audiences that Russia could use to disrupt nation-states from within their borders, Watts wrote.
Russia continued its campaign in 2020, according to a March 2021 report by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines. The report found no evidence of direct vote tampering, but assessed that Putin authorized Russian operatives to undermine confidence in the electoral process and to exacerbate "sociopolitical divisions in the US."
Russia's disinformation campaign is now aiming at undermining confidence in COVID-19 vaccines, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Putin apparently understood a harsh truth — that America's people could be used as a weapon against it.