Julia Ioffe never intended to be an expert on Russia, but her knowledge of Soviet history has allowed her to report on relations between Russia and the United States for various publications.
Ioffe, currently a U.S. politics, national security and foreign policy reporter for The Atlantic, discussed Russia’s involvement in the 2016 U.S. election during the “What Russia Wants” event Tuesday evening at Colorado State University.
Ioffe said it is a proven fact that Russia interfered with the election, but how much influence they had has not been determined.
“There’s still a lot we don’t know. The stuff coming to light … doesn’t totally surprise me knowing how Russia operates,” Ioffe said. “But, it has to be contextualized and I think there’s still a lot we don’t know about how they did what they did. We also don’t know what impact it had, how much it influenced the election, so whenever there’s that grey area, there’s a lot of room for politics.”
According to Ioffe, people allow their personal politics to influence their decision about Russia’s involvement.
“People start with the politics then look at the facts of what happened either because they want Trump out of office tomorrow or because you think that Trump was elected completely legitimately and this was just a democratic ruse to get him out of office as opposed to looking at what actually happened separately from the politics of it,” Ioffe said.
Ioffe said the focus on Russia’s involvement with Trump’s election distracts from problems in America that allowed him to win.
“People think that Russia’s the story … All this story about Russian interference — it’s about us, it’s about ourselves,” Ioffe said. “It’s not really about Russia. We’re just trying to find a really simple explanation for what happened when really the explanation is probably very complex, and there’s probably not just one explanation.
Ioffe said Russia originally did not promote Donald Trump but were promoting anybody that was not Hillary Clinton, including candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein.
According to Ioffe, the Russians only intended to weaken Hillary Clinton’s campaign and did not expect Trump to win.
“They thought it was all sown up for Hillary and that they would just weaken her going in, and she wouldn’t be as hawkish towards the Russians as she would have wanted to be,” Ioffe said. “Trump winning was a huge surprise for them, and I don’t think they’re very happy with how it’s turned out. Things have only gotten worse for them. Because of their meddling, because it has been uncovered, anything Russian is completely radioactive.”
Collegian News Director Haley Candelario can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @H_Candelario98.