Max Fisher writes: Russia’s unprecedented intervention in the United States election came amid more than United States-Russia tension and Donald J. Trump’s praise of Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president. It also coincided with a growing belief, in Moscow, that Russia faced an imminent threat in Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.
Mrs. Clinton is viewed in Moscow as innately hostile to Russia. Widely held conspiracy theories portray her as seeking to foment unrest that will return Russia to the chaos and depression of the 1990s. Even many government technocrats view her with suspicion that at times verges on paranoia.
She referred to these views at an event on Thursday, telling donors that Mr. Putin’s “personal beef” with her had driven Russia’s intervention in the American election.
Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert at the Institute of International Relations, based in Prague, said the Kremlin was consumed by something more urgent than petty revenge: self-preservation.
“It’s not just they didn’t like Clinton, but they actually thought that she represented a threat,” he said, describing Russia’s actions as a matter of “policy, not pique.”
No one factor can fully explain Russia’s decision to hack and pass on Democratic emails, analysts say, and intelligence agencies appear divided on assessing Russian motives. But, in Moscow, fear of Mrs. Clinton has loomed as large or larger than any warmth for Mr. Trump. [Continue reading…]