Trump-Putin Will Talk Against Backdrop of Broader Russian Mischief

Debate over Russia’s role in 2016 election blurs larger picture

 Less obvious, but more important, is how any Russian meddling in the American presidential-election season—whatever form it may have taken—fits into a much larger tale. This is the tale of a systematic Russian effort to disrupt democratic and capitalist systems internationally, using an updated version of tactics Mr. Putin learned in the bad old days of the Soviet KGB.
.. The Playbook is an in-depth study of Russian efforts to use overt and covert tactics over a period of a decade to expand its economic and political influence in five Central and East European nations. A group of regional leaders from such nations warned President Barack Obama in a 2009 letter—which also looks prescient now—that Russia was conducting “overt and covert means of economic warfare, ranging from energy blockades and politically motivated investments to bribery and media manipulation in order to advance its interests….”..The Russian strategy, the study finds, isn’t ad hoc. Rather, it is the implementation of a doctrine developed by Russian Gen. Valery Gerasimov called “new generation warfare.” One European analyst called that “primarily a strategy of influence, not of brute force” aimed at “breaking the internal coherence of the enemy system.”

.. 1) The first track is economic. Russia seeks to find business partners and investments that allow it to establish an economic foothold, which in turn produces economically influential patrons and partners who have a vested interest in policies friendly to the Kremlin. That is a particularly fruitful endeavor in Europe, where many nations depend on Russian energy supplies.The goal on this track is to cultivate “a network of local affiliates and power-brokers who are capable of advocating on Russia’s behalf.”

2) The second track, perhaps more relevant to the U.S., is designed to disrupt prevailing democratic political patterns. The goal, the Playbook says, is “to corrode democracy from within by deepening political divides and cultivating relationships with aspiring autocrats, political parties (notably nationalists, populists and Euroskeptic groups), and Russian sympathizers.”

..  “an acceleration” of Russian influence-seeking, ranging from a plot against the prime minister of Montenegro to interference in the French election to cyberattacks in Ukraine.

One Third of French Voters Spoiled Ballots or Abstained

According to official results with more than 80 percent of votes counted, the abstention rate stood at 24.52 percent — the highest since the presidential election in 1969.

 In addition, the interior ministry reported a record number of blank and invalid ballots, accounting for nine percent of all registered voters, compared to two percent in the first round.

“That would make a total of one French person out of three who decided not to choose between the two candidates. It’s really a lot for a presidential election,” Anne Jadot, political science professor at the University of Lorraine, told AFP.

The Center Holds

Emmanuel Macron was elected president of France on Sunday in a victory for a political newcomer who campaigned on promises to revamp France’s heavily regulated economy and fight a tide of nationalism sweeping the European Union. The 39-year-old former investment banker has vowed to undertake contentious changes to labor markets in France as part of a push for greater economic convergence among the EU’s fractious member states. At the core of his program are overhauls of France’s sluggish economy and the eurozone, with all its shortcomings. To get what he wants, he will first have to convince a skeptical Germany. Mr. Macron won 66.1% of the vote, surpassing pollsters’ predictions that he would win about 60%. Marine Le Pen, who ran on a plan to pull the country out of the euro and close its borders to migrants, took 33.9%. The euro briefly touched a seven-month high against the dollar after the results.

Democrats Elect Tom Perez as Party Chairman

Former Labor secretary, backed by party establishment, defeated Keith Ellison from the party’s populist wing

To help heal the division, Mr. Perez in declaring victory immediately appointed Mr. Ellison as the party’s vice chairman. Mr. Ellison practically begged his supporters to remain in the party and back Mr. Perez.

.. “It is imperative that Tom understands that the same-old, same-old is not working and that we must open the doors of the party to working people and young people in a way that has never been done before,” Mr. Sanders said.

..Keith Ellison was uniquely qualified to transform that anger and fear into political power and organization.”
.. Despite Mr. Ellison’s grass-roots support, large segments of the DNC remained mistrustful of Mr. Sanders, a registered independent whose supporters are aiming to transform the party by installing his acolytes in party posts.
.. The Perez victory ends a four-month campaign to lead the party that few Democrats had expected. Had Mrs. Clinton been elected president, as virtually all DNC members here thought would happen, she would have served as the head of the party and named the new leadership.
.. Mr. Perez has a résumé long on government experience and short on political campaigning.
.. Mr. Perez worked in the Justice Department’s civil-rights division under President Bill Clinton and during President Barack Obama’s first term. In 2013, Mr. Obama named Mr. Perez to lead the Labor Department, a post that made him a favorite of labor unions and liberal activists. But as a member of the Obama cabinet, Mr. Perez backed the Trans Pacific Partnership and other trade deals opposed by the party’s base.
.. He entered the DNC race weeks after Mr. Ellison with the encouragement of Obama allies
.. Haim Saban, an Israeli-American donor who funded the construction of the DNC’s Washington headquarters, in December publicly called Mr. Ellison “clearly an anti-Semite.”
.. Mr. Perez’s association with Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton was a liability for him with liberals and new voters brought to the party by Mr. Sanders’s presidential campaign. These voters are looking for a revamp of a party structure they see as too beholden to corporate interests.
.. Mr. Perez adopted much of the rhetoric of the Sanders movement and other critics of the Obama-era DNC, calling for a return to an emphasis on grass roots organizing, and a 50-state strategy that does more to channel money to state parties. Behind the scenes, though, Mr. Perez drew on the strength of the Obama network. He was endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden and former Attorney General Eric Holder. Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett made phone calls to wavering DNC members.