Brugger: The Changing Game Plans of our Traditional Enemies

Brugger: The Changing Game Plans of our Traditional Enemies

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I grew up in a world where democratic governments around the world sought to promote the idea of democracy globally. Russia was a country anxious to push socialism around the world while planning to take over countries and impose a totalitarian government under the ideology of Communism. China, until Nixon visited, was backward compared to Taiwan under the rule of westernized Chiang Kai-Shek. Times have changed if these outlooks were ever completely true. Both Russia and China have evolved, but they have an important similarity. Both have strong central governments. Russia experimented with democracy and abandoned all but a nod toward it. China suppresses most movement in a direction towards it.

This is background as I try to explain my belief that Russia did in the past and will continue attempting to corrupt our historic democratic government. I want to make it clear that I do not believe that Trump colluded with the Russians. While Russian plans already in place probably helped him win, their meddling is part of a much larger strategy. Their tactics have been copied by other bad actors around the world, now including China. China, however, has other strategic plans I will tackle later.

The narrative could start centuries earlier as Russian leaders sought to adopt the culture of Europe, or it could start in Dresden as the Soviet Union was failing. KGB agent Vladimir Putin was proud that his country and the United States ruled the world with only a few objections from that upstart, China. After the KGB was abolished, he became head of the FSB under Boris Yeltsin. He was elected President in 2000. After a corrupt election in 2018, he has signed legislation that will ensure that he can be president for life. His overriding goal as President has been to restore Russian world power. Using the techniques honed with the KGB and the FSB, he has constructed a powerful public persona which glides smoothly along with a calm, collected outward appearance.

Putin has experienced major setbacks in his quest for Russian power. The US, EU and NATO were skeptical and protective of the newer world order without a powerful Russia. Several of his initiatives toward the West were rebuffed even as nations that were part of the old Soviet Union were accepted into NATO. Then came the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi. Instead of a glorious triumph, the international community derided the preparations, and the Russians were accused of doping. The day the games ended; Russia invaded Crimea. The West retaliated with sanctions.

During the cold war, the western democracies, including in large part the US, competed with the Soviet Union to influence emerging countries and South/Central America with covert activity within their countries. It was expensive and slow to have impact. The techniques were honed by decades of practice. Technology began to assist and to expand the effort of agents.

I theorize that Putin ramped up any effort that Russia was already making throughout the world as he became more convinced that less aggressive measures were not restoring sufficient Russian power. No doubt that his cybersecurity apparatus, as well as the well-honed propaganda research and development which was already cementing his autocratic oligarchy domestically, helped him put a grand strategy into place. By convincing citizens to doubt the integrity of their government, using the actual uncertainties and political disagreements already in place, Russia could distract public attention from geopolitical matters and onto fierce nationalism with populist intentions. These actions were protected by our freedom of speech and our unregulated internet.

The Syrian civil war produced refugees who overwhelmed Europe’s ability to absorb them. Middle Eastern culture was already creating tensions with Europe. Using internet messaging to amplify the unrest was a cinch. Russia’s first triumph was Brexit, but their assault on American democracy had already begun. Our disagreements concerning the actions and demeanor of our current president are only signs of the success of their tactics to date. It will be up to us to see if his strategy eliminates democracy and the US as a major roadblock to his worldview.

Please note: this is first in a series of columns.

Linda Brugger, retired from the Air Force, leaning Democrat and community activist can be reached at She welcomes feedback.



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Idaho’s structure of electing governors and LG’s completely separately — different from many states which bind them together — allows for the office holders to come from different points of view.

For future historians and artists who'll chronicle today's health and economic crisis, one humble item will stand out as the chief cultural emblem of the times: wearing a mask. Or not.

A small outbreak of coronavirus at a Fry Foods plant in Weiser gives a prime example of the importance of testing for COVID-19. More than that, it represents a warning shot across the bow of potential pitfalls if we don’t reopen our economy the right way.

As we tiptoe through Stage 2 of Gov. Brad Little’s phased reopening plan and approach a more robust Stage 3, it’s going to become even more important that we take the necessary steps to prevent future outbreaks.

And there will be future outbreaks.

The fact remains that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is still out there. It’s ready to strike again, and without a vaccine, it remains a potentially destructive and fatal disease.

Aggressive and quick testing remains one of the key elements — perhaps the most important element — of controlling outbreaks at this point.

Fry Foods offers an early case study.

The Weiser food processing plant employs 260 people to make onion rings and other food products. It shut down earlier this month when at least seven employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

Fry Foods initially didn’t test all 260 employees at the Weiser facility — only the 50 or 60 who likely came in contact with the employees who tested positive. Other employees were able to get tested on their own.

The Idaho Bureau of Laboratories (state run-laboratories) tested all that they had the capacity to do in one day, according to Kelly Petroff, director of communications for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The state lab can do about has a testing capacity of approximately 200 tests per day.

“We are not prepared to handle this,” Doug Wold, human resources manager for Fry Foods, told the Idaho Statesman, referring to the lack of coordinated response. “If you don’t have an employer who’s willing to be proactive, we’re just going to fail.”

Fortunately, Crush the Curve Idaho, a private, business-led initiative established during the outbreak to increase testing, stepped in and tested every employee at Fry Foods.

By Tuesday of this week, 20 employees — about 8% of the plant’s workforce — had tested positive for the coronavirus, along with at least two of their family members. Nearly all were asymptomatic.


That’s what needs to happen: rapid-response testing. If you have an outbreak at your workplace, get everyone tested. For those who test positive, keep them home and isolated. For those who test negative, they can keep on working and you’re back in business.

When the outbreak hit Fry Foods, company officials made the decision to shut the plant down.

Without adequate testing, that’s unfortunately the right thing to do. Without testing, you have no idea whether you have seven infected employees, 70 or 270.

We applaud Fry Foods company officials for making the tough call to shut down, even though they were given the green light by the Southwest District Health Department to resume operations.

Coronavirus is stealthy. A person can carry coronavirus longer without symptoms, potentially spreading to others unwittingly. Some people who carry coronavirus have no symptoms at all.

We are encouraged that Crush the Curve Idaho stepped up and stepped in here.

But Idaho needs a more concerted and organized plan to do rapid-response testing.

We are a fragmented health system. Health providers include Saint Alphonsus, St. Luke’s, Primary Health, Saltzer, among others. Then think about all the entities who pay for health care: Blue Cross of Idaho, Regence BlueShield, PacificSource, SelectHealth, etc. Throw in Medicare, Medicaid and those who are uninsured.

Even our own government health management system is fragmented, with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and seven independent health districts not operated by the state.

And, in the case of Fry Foods, situated in a city bordering Oregon, workers were from two states.


No wonder Fry Foods officials were at a loss for where to turn for help. Without some sort of coordinated effort to test all employees and somehow pay for those tests, shutting down the plant was the best option.

It’s worth noting that the Fry Foods employee who initially had coronavirus was at a family gathering of a larger number than outlined in the governor’s reopening plan and was with visitors from out of state, two violations of the governor’s guidelines. That’s why we have the guidelines, and that’s why it’s important to follow the guidelines. Otherwise, this is what you get: an outbreak that shuts down an entire food manufacturing plant.

Unfortunately, shutting down operations every time there’s an outbreak is not going to get the job done.

And there will be more outbreaks as we reopen our economy, reopen factories and workplaces.

Idaho has a lot to be optimistic about, and we have a golden opportunity to lead the nation in reopening our economy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. We have had relatively few cases (around 2,300) and few deaths (77). Our early efforts to shut down parts of our social interactions and Little’s quick call to issue a statewide stay-home order clearly have paid off. Idahoans’ adherence to the stay-home order has helped to flatten the curve and control the number of new cases. Residents and businesses, alike, have done their part to make this happen.

Our hope is that Idaho can chug along through the stages of reopening. Our fear is that if we don’t do this the right way, we’ll have a surge and we’ll be back to a statewide stay-home order. Nobody wants that.

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