The American CIA reportedly believes that the Russians, in the form of the Russian government and possibly private actors, went to signficant length (psych / cyber ops) to help Trump win.

Having said that, could you provide a clear explanation of exactly why they would want that?

The only explanation I've seen in the news is some vague reference to it having something to do with past business relationships with Russian billionaires. Is that complete/accurate?

Is it just gratitude for past business deals or would they expect Trump to benefit them in the future as well (or is there some other element)? It couldn't have anything to do with his wife, could it? If not for the business relationships, I would've expected the Russians to prefer a Democrat, as Republicans are (in my perception) typically viewed as more aggressive towards rivals and less co-operative in international affairs.

Note: Retrospectively this question is similar to a couple of others so I won't dispute it being marked as a dupe, but I think it's more broadly focused and has some good unique answers.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Philipp
    Dec 13 '16 at 9:55

While Trump in general has been supportive of Putin and the Russian government, there are several specific policy reasons that they supported him.

Trump will weaken US commitment to NATO

For Vladimir Putin, the election of Donald Trump may undermine the NATO military alliance. Trump has said that the U.S. would not automatically defend its treaty allies and that we might withdraw forces from Europe and Asia. This weakening of the U.S. commitment to NATO comes at a time when the military alliance is seeking to deter Russia from threatening to annex the Baltic nations, as it did the Crimea.

New York Daily News

Trump will consider recognizing Crimea as part of Russia

Putin has rational motives for wanting Trump to win: Trump champions many foreign policies that Putin supports. Trump's most shocking, pro-Kremlin proposal is to "look into" recognition of Crimea as a part of Russia. President Barack Obama and nearly every member of Congress — Republican and Democrat — have rejected that idea vigorously. Only Afghanistan, Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela have recognized Russia's annexation of Crimea. Naturally, Putin would love to see the United States join that list.

Chicago Tribune

Trump's views on the dangers of ISIS that some feel are overblown help justify Russian military actions within Syria

Trump likely doesn’t know it, but his (absurd) idea that ISIS could mount a coup against the U.S. government from within the country is once again a gift to Putin. The Russian leader has been justifying his decision to send Russian forces to Syria on the basis that it protects Russian citizens from future terrorist attacks and the Russian government from destabilization.

The Fiscal Times

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    Worth noting that in typical Trump fashion it really depends on what time of the day you ask him these things because he has gone back and forth on all of those points. Dec 11 '16 at 5:18
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    Regarding NATO: he wants the other countries to pay up instead of the US giving freebies. If NATO won't right away, a country or two will fall (likely the Baltic) and then they'll do anything to gain protection.
    – Fine Man
    Dec 11 '16 at 6:05
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    There are also a lot of speculative possible reasons why Russia might want Trump to win. For example, they might have blackmail material on him. They might have made a secret deal with him or someone close to him. He may have various business ties to people close to the Russian government. None of these things are provable, some of them are purely speculative, but some are backed by some circumstantial evidence. Dec 11 '16 at 6:48
  • @SirJony which is most definitely a Russian interest.
    – djechlin
    Dec 11 '16 at 17:59

While I'm not sure about all the assumptions made in OP, I would tend to agree that the Kremlin preferred Trump over Hillary. One out of several reasons could be Hillary's Syria policy.

Why Clinton's plans for no-fly zones in Syria could provoke US-Russia conflict - The Guardian

Hillary Clinton Goes All-In On Syria No-Fly Zone - The Huffington Post

Such a no-fly zone would have been a severe challenge to Russia, forcing them to seriously reconsider their strategy in Syria. Some (such as The Guardian) also feared a no-fly zone could have lead to an escalation of the war, from proxy-war to conventional war. Clearly, the Russian government did not want this.

Hillary has often been described as Hawkish. To quote the New York Times:

How Hillary Clinton Became a Hawk

Throughout her career she has displayed instincts on foreign policy that are more aggressive than those of President Obama — and most Democrats.

From Wikipedia:

The term liberal hawk refers to a politically liberal individual (in the American sense of the term) who supports a hawkish, interventionist foreign policy.

Trump, on the other hand, seemed more concerned with domestic issues and less about dealing with the rest of the world. Some went as far as to call him isolationist (that may be taking it a bit far, but I do understand the use of the term.)

All in all, the Russian government may prefer a US who takes less of an interest in geo-political power struggles and focuses more on domestic issues. They may have felt that Trump would be less of an obstacle to them and their interests than what Hillary would have been.

Surely, Trump has also made some bizarre and dangerous statements on foreign policy. But perhaps the Kremlin does not see them as a threat to their interests, or as realistic.

Of course, geo-politics is complex, and this is mere speculation. It is often difficult to understand what is really going on. Also, in any case, there are likely to be multiple causes, not just one.

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    Any answer is all speculation but this answer does a good job of positing basic possibilities within that framework.
    – rougon
    Dec 11 '16 at 6:32
  • I don't think you should neglect that Trump also just seems really easy for the Russians to manipulate.
    – graffe
    Dec 12 '16 at 14:06
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    @Lembik That's an interesting conspiracy theory, but I think we ought to back it up with some evidence before we consider including it in an answer here. There is enough speculation in this answer already.
    – Fiksdal
    Dec 12 '16 at 14:27
  • @Fiksdal It's not a conspiracy theory, more an observation that can't be proven :) In case it wasn't clear, I am referring to his obvious vanity, his inability to see beyond the most obvious emotional reaction to provocation and Putin's careful use of flattery when talking about Trump.
    – graffe
    Dec 12 '16 at 14:28
  • @Lembik I see. Sounds subjective and more suitable for Reddit than SE. To clarify, I'm no Trump fan, but I try to keep my answers as objective as possible here on SE.
    – Fiksdal
    Dec 12 '16 at 15:33

I think that it is a false assumption that the Russians wanted Trump, at least in a flat-out manner. I would postulate an alternative theory: the Russians just wanted to create chaos, disorganization and doubt in the American election system. Why? Because there is a general theory among the great powers that whatever is good for one is bad for the other. A strong integrity of election is good for America, and while it is not directly bad for Russia, it is good for America which is bad for Russia.

As another example of this theory, why are the Russians in Syria? Russia does not have this reputation of 'global police force' and 'humanitarian savior' like the U.S. does. They did not partake in any military operations there for years while the Syrian civil war went on, and even for a long period of time after the U.S. began military operations. However, by having military operations in Syria now it makes it significantly more difficult and costly for the U.S. to conduct military operations in Syria. In other words, if the Americans are doing it, it must be bad for Russia, so Russia should throw a wrench in it. Even if it doesn't directly help Russia.

I would also add that there are some arguments to be made that the Russians would prefer Clinton in the White House over Trump. For example, remember the Russian Reset? That was pretty advantageous for the Russians.

Finally, and most tin-foil-hat-y, can we really be certain that the Russians did it? I feel pretty confidant in saying that the Russians have operations to hack U.S. systems, and that they have had success before. But nowadays it seems as if they are being blamed for everything. Remember that governments are run by people, and people are imperfect, so how do we know some people aren't just sweeping stuff under the rug and just pointing the finger at Russia because Russia is the Big Bad Wolf Bear of the day?

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    While I can agree with some of this, I think there's too much personal opinion and speculation in this answer.
    – Batman
    Dec 11 '16 at 5:55
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    Also, to the point of attribution to Russia, with the right resources and evidence, you certainly could be certain. We don't have access to the same resources of say the NSA, or potentially even the resources available to some of the private researchers that arrived at the same conclusion. I'd advise against dismissing the consensus of experts so readily without a comparable level of knowledge and understanding.
    – Batman
    Dec 11 '16 at 7:03
  • Thank you for this answer. I've upvoted but will wait until later today to pick a final answer.
    – Hack-R
    Dec 11 '16 at 14:54
  • This is a perfectly reasonable point of view but it's also plausible that it was a win win move for Russia. If Trump wins then they get the man they want and if not, then at least they partially discredit democracy in the US.
    – graffe
    Dec 12 '16 at 14:04
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    If, as the CIA is reporting, the RNC was hacked but none of those emails were released, I think that is significant evidence that the hackers acted out of a specific interest to make Clinton lose. After all, what would stir things up more than lots of infighting about Trump throughout the primary and general election, and/or high-level Republicans showing a very different opinion of Trump than they've stated publicly?
    – BradC
    Dec 12 '16 at 19:32

Back in 2011 Rosneft and Exxon made a deal which is crucial for the future of Russia and Exxon both. It's about a site in the Arctic which became accessible due to climate change but it's still an incredibly harsh environment and Exxon has the know how to drill it but no one else really has.

The East-Prinovozemelsky field (or Kara Sea for short) deposits are estimated to be 4.9 billion tons of oil (or 36 billion barrels) and 8.3 trillion of cubic meters of gas. To give you an idea how huge that is: it's a quarter of the entire reserves of Iraq. In a single field.

Now this deal can't go forward because of the USA sanctions against Russia. It was actually cancelled in 2014 and while the Russians claim Gasprom can drill this field, they have no real capability to do so. So far they drilled one well and said to resume in 2018. And that's quite probably wishful thinking. It pretty much follows from the very fact that they gave the development rights to Exxon in the first place, why would they let someone else earn hundreds of billions of dollars over the next few decades if they could do it themselves? Not to mention the immense amounts of capital this needs, the 2011 deal was about 3.2B USD and Exxon expected to invest tens of billions "initially".

Now, observe please the Exxon CTO being named Secretary of State. There's an awful lot of money to be made by Exxon and Russia should ― by some fortuitous coincidence ― the USA withdraw the sanctions so that the agreement can be signed again.

And, just in case you have any doubts that Rosneft is really the Russian state check the 2011 article linked:

Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, right, with Rex Tillerson, chief executive of Exxon, at a signing ceremony in Sochi, Russi.

  • Can you cite some evidence that the deal can't go through because of US sanctions? Because from your article you posted it looks like it's full steam ahead.
    – user9790
    Dec 12 '16 at 23:44
  • Sure. Added more sources, some history.
    – chx
    Dec 12 '16 at 23:58

The CIA and NATO intelligence have strong evidence that that the Russian government used cyber attacks and disinformation to destabilise the Clinton campaign. Trump has consistently denied this intel and says he believes Putin's denials, causing widespread dismay amongst US allies.

The reason that the Russians supported the Trump campaign is likely simple - Trump is in Putin's pocket. Due to his many bankruptcies he is unable to raise loans in the US, and while he is trying to hide his sources of finance it is widely accepted that he is in debt to Russian financiers within Putin's circle. So Putin is likely in a position to bring down Trump's business empire with a couple of phone-calls to his billionaire cronies.

So we have the unprecedented situation of a US President under the control of a militarily aggressive demagogue at the head of a hostile power that is actively working to destabilise Western democracy.

  • Thank you for this answer. I've upvoted but will wait until later today to pick a final answer.
    – Hack-R
    Dec 11 '16 at 14:55
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    @KDog - and why is this unhinged? My claim that the Russians supported Trump with cyber warfare has been publicly supported by the CIA and the other major intelligence agencies of the NATO alliance. My claim that Trump is financed by Russians close to Putin is supported by detailed investigative journalism in Newsweek (quoted in my answer). Trump's virtually unqualified support for Putin is a matter of public record. Do you have facts to repudiate any of this? Dec 12 '16 at 8:39
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    CIA and NATO are both agressively anti Russian, anti Trump and pro Clinton, so their "evidence" isn't worth the paper that it is written on. You could as well use KKK sites on black crime. The most likely reason for Putin to be for Trump is A: That he with his loud mouth and little intelligence, is a far smaller danger for Russia than Clinton, who has already shown to be for war, if it helps the companies that she has deals with. and B: Russia is big in Gas and Oil, with Trump the chance that the US will rely on these sources in the future is far better with Clinton.
    – Etaila
    Dec 12 '16 at 9:25
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    @Etaila Why do you say the CIA is aggressively anti-Trump?
    – graffe
    Dec 12 '16 at 14:05
  • Both those links are to the same article, which doesn't support the statement "that he is in debt to Russian financiers within Putin's circle".
    – DCShannon
    Dec 12 '16 at 22:12

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