“When you understand what you see, you will no longer be children,” Whittaker Chambers, Witness.
For those of us who are old enough to have come of political age during the Cold War, Russian meddling in U.S. political, economic, and global business is not news. They’ve been at it for more than 50 plus years, even during World War II – when we we’re all ‘allies’ – Soviet Communists were deployed in Washington, DC to spy on the highest levels of our government. There are plenty of excellent books about it. Yes, you know books, those paper and ink-filled things that we used to hold in our hands to learn a thing or two about the world. However, if you’re pressed for time, there are plenty of movies as well as recent television programs you could watch (FX’s The Americans is one of the more recent Cold War thrillers worth a watch or two – teasers embedded at the end of this post).
Anyhow, back to current events. The more certain sectors of the Democratic Party, some Republicans as well as pockets of the media, try to use alleged Russian government meddling in US politics to discredit Trump, the more that lot is playing right into the Russian long game, weakening American democracy. Russia, and other adversaries, want to weaken U.S. markets and, at times, the mighty, yes still mighty U.S. dollar. Even American culture is fair game, which is one of many reasons both political parties should abandon identity/hyphenated politics.
There is no doubt that the Russian government has been targeting the election campaign in 2016, but not for the reasons we’re being told. Whereas the media wants to draw the picture of Trump as Putin’s puppet, that claim is actually designed to undercut Trump’s agenda as President, more than it is to preserve America’s independence from Russia. The real reason Russia has targeted America is obvious. In the long run, the Russians could care less if Clinton or Trump are in the White House, though in the short run Putin clearly was in the “anyone but Hillary” camp. What Putin cares about is undermining American institutions, decreasing American strength, and empowering Russia on the global stage.
If Russia, or any other foreign power meddles in our business, rather than babble on and on about it on television, stop talking. Do something about it. The American taxpayer does not want to know what you do, just do it and get on with other things.
Keep America safe. Stop politicizing intelligence (the Congressional hearing last week did just that, and then some). Stop weakening foreign policy tools such as economic sanctions. It is un-American and, yes, also plays right into Russian hands. As much as a year ago, or more, the Obama administration knew or should have known that entities in Russia, maybe entities working at the direction of the Russian intelligence services, were trying to influence the American political process. Yet they ‘respond’ with economic sanctions about two weeks before Trump is sworn in? That makes about as much sense as a shirt on a back pocket. In the process, it also weakens a very important foreign policy tool.
The Russians have a world vision that is inconsistent with liberal democracies, free markets, and fundamental liberties. The Russians, and the constellation of nation-states who support them, including some right here in the Western Hemisphere, will not stop until they achieve their goals. Weakening and undermining America is part of that process. I think the Russians, indeed all U.S. adversaries, are going to find dealing with President Trump is not going to be a walk in the park. Quite the opposite. Trump is the closest to a Ronald Reagan-type leader that the post-Cold War world has had. In fact, he may be better. Besides, Trump is unabashedly pro-America, eats McDonalds, and who could care less what other people think of him. After decades of cookie cutter politicos, the nation has been craving this type of leadership for a long time.
If FDR could collaborate with Stalin during WWII – a tyrant and killer of millions of his own people – and Reagan engage with Gorbachev, a die-hard Communist, then Trump can engage with the Putin kleptocracy. We won the Cold War by, among other things, outthinking, outmaneuvering, and outworking the Soviets. Judging from what I’ve seen and read the past few weeks about the alleged Russia hacking and/or influence operation, current policymakers, talking heads, and even some in the IC, could learn a lot from that important period in recent American history.