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OpinionColumnistsMichael Dobie

Everything’s coming up roses for Vlad

From disinformation campaigns to bots, Putin’s wicked ways are paying off.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony Tuesday

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony Tuesday with Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa in Moscow. Photo Credit: AP / Sergei Chirikov

Oh to be Vlad, romping in the Siberian winter, throwing poisoned snowballs and kicking dirty slush in everyone else’s faces. When you’re not looking, he’ll steal your sled.

He’s had quite a run, ol’ Vlad, as he undermines democracies, frays old alliances, cultivates toadies and embraces new friends. It’s good to be Russian President Vladimir Putin.

  • Britain is in turmoil, and Vlad is smiling. Hundreds of Russian social media bots and trolls worked hard to push the Brexit vote — just as they worked hard to elect President Donald Trump. Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union would weaken the country and the EU, one of Putin’s nemeses. Now the nation is rived over how — and whether — to actually follow through.
  • That’s matched by the recent revelation that Trump has mulled pulling out of NATO, Vlad’s most fevered dream. Proof perhaps of how much you can get accomplished with sweet whispers when your conversations with a U.S. president are private and unrecorded.
  • The U.S. military apparently is pulling out of Syria, just as Vlad wanted, ceding him influence in the restive region.
  • The Treasury Department just moved to ease sanctions on three companies connected to one of Vlad’s favorite oligarchs, Oleg Deripaska, a former business associate of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Raise a Stolichnaya to Vlad’s black arts prowess in getting Sens. Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz and even Mitt Romney — Russia-is-our-No. 1-geopolitical-foe MITT ROMNEY!!! — to vote against blocking the move.
  • Speaking of Deripaska, a Belarusian woman who said she had an affair with him and said she had audio recordings possibly linking Russia with Trump’s election was deported by Thailand after pleading guilty to prostitution-related charges there. Instead of being flown directly to Belarus, the plane first made a scheduled stop in Moscow, where she was, of course, detained. Go Vlad!
  • Vlad also can puff out his bare chest at the breadth of his disinformation campaign, shown again last week when Facebook took down hundreds of pages and accounts pretending to be legitimate news sites in Eastern Europe that actually were run by a Russian government-owned news company. If you think there are no more, I have a beach in Siberia.
  • Vlad just visited Serbia, which always has had a balancing act with Russia, and which wants to join the EU, a move Vlad wants to stop. And Serbia lit the water in Belgrade’s central fountain red, plastered his face on souvenirs, and called him “dear friend” on billboards. With friends like that . . .
  • And who can forget Vlad yukking it up in Argentina with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, another member of the fraternal order of we-kill-journalists. Or Vlad receiving congrats from Trump on his preordained win in Russia’s bogus elections last year. Or Vlad convincing Trump to take his highly suspect word over reams of evidence and the conclusion of America’s intelligence agencies regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Or Vlad getting lucky when Manafort reportedly shared Trump campaign polling data with a Russian national who has ties to Russian intelligence, which figured to help Vlad’s bots and trolls better target Americans in the influence war.

To be clear, this is about Vlad, not Robert Mueller’s investigation. Not whether Trump colluded with Russia, or whether Rudy Giuliani was lucid when he said he never said there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, or whether Trump instructed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about Trump’s involvement in the Moscow tower project. On all that, just let Mueller finish. We’ll get to that truth soon enough.

On Vlad the Derailer, we already know the truth. And it’s been established beyond any reasonable doubt.

Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.


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