Putin; like previous Russian strongman leaders - is trying to reshape the geo-political map. Unlike his predecessors, he is winning. I don't claim to be an expert in Russian politics - but I do know communications strategy - and I see a master at work.
If the 'International Research Agency,' indicted by the US special counsel was a political communications agency, and their mission wasn't what it clearly is - this would be a Cannes Lions Grand Prix winning campaign.
The range of their approaches, their flexibility and multi-channel execution, their reliance on the use of data - great artwork, deep insight into the psyche of their audience - and clear measurable objectives. It's really a masterpiece of political communications work - with one simple straightforward aim: undermine the ability of Russia's enemies to mount a coordinated response against her.
Check the timeline - Russia started this work soon after Obama sanctioned them for invading Ukraine.
I don't know if Trump was a paid shill - I doubt it, personally, but who knows? Perhaps people in his team were feeding information to the Russians - maybe we will find out - maybe we won't.
The real story here is that we have a highly porous information architecture that can be manipulated by anyone with some cash and talent.
For a foreign power to have massive influence in our political debates - Trump, Brexit, Italy's anti-European party, the racist AfD in Germany - Russia doesn't need to have people 'in her pocket' they just need to amplify the voice of the angry outsiders - at the expense of the centre-ground.
It is well known that modern media is a rage machine - rage gets eyeballs, and eyeballs sell ads.
There needs to be a quite significant change to the general information architecture if we want our communications channels to serve our civil societies.
To my mind - this chap has his finger on an important issue - and is well worth paying attention to: http://www.tristanharris.com/
After the election, the group organized both pro- and anti-Trump rallies, including a "Trump is NOT my President" rally in New York the week after the election and one in Charlotte, North Carolina, the following week, the indictment said. The Russian organization had settled on Trump as their favored candidate by at least April 2016 and began producing and purchasing ads promoting the reality-TV star to voters and "expressly opposing Clinton," according to the indictment.