After Helsinki I'm having second thoughts about my Grand Russia Theory.
Since the 2016 Election I've been of the opinion that anyone expecting evidence of direct collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia was going to be sorely disappointed – that there would be no red-handed moment like the release of a video or phone calls where Trump or his close associates say "OK, so tomorrow we do X and you do Y, talk to you afterward." It seemed more likely to me – and on balance I think this is still the more likely reality, even though I'm hedging now – that what happened is Russia is and has always been trying to interfere in our domestic politics and at some point the Trump people learned about specific examples of this. Instead of contacting the FBI or whatever, they just laughed and said "lol awesome" like the rank amateurs and soulless con men they are. Along the way I assumed, correctly as it has turned out, that the President would make so many ham-fisted attempts to obstruct investigations into his various malfeasances (??) that he'd eventually get rolled up in those charges.
Now I'm wondering about the viability of a second theory – that Russia, in their long-standing efforts to destabilize the politics of Europe, China, the US, and anyone else they can destabilize to their advantage economically, politically, and militarily – does have something explicit like phone calls, emails, or video of direct Trump campaign contacts and requests. Because pardon my absence of scientific rigor here, but this is just getting too weird. It's dangerous to read anything into their usual sound-and-fury reactions, but even some Republicans appear to be concerned at a level that is subtly different. I think, for the first time, it's a real possibility that Russia's grand strategy here is to hold a release of damning evidence over Trump's head for as long as possible, extract whatever favorable concessions from him they can, and then release the evidence and sit back to watch the American political system have a total, complete, years-long meltdown.
I've never believed, and do not believe, that Russia gives a shit about Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump per se. What they care about is creating as much of a shitshow out of America's increasingly feeble attempts to govern itself so that it, Russia, can present itself to the world as the safer, stabler economic and military protecting power. Domestic chaos in the US also drastically reduces the chance of American attempts to limit Russian geographic expansion (and if you fail to understand that geographic security is the guiding force behind all Russian strategic thinking for the past five centuries, read up and get back to us). There was no Grand Scheme to "install" Trump. They just saw an opportunity and took it. The U.S. would do exactly the same – and has repeatedly in the past – if we thought there was some opportunity to install a total ass clown dictator type in Russia or another country.
I haven't convinced myself yet, but this is just getting too fuckin' weird for someone with an active imagination not to start thinking about more spectacular endings.