The Russians are Coming!


Russians have been dominating the Trump news-o-sphere for a while now and I felt like weighing in on it. As is often the case, I’m not sure my opinion is going to satisfy anyone who cares about the topic. But here goes none the less.

The facts as I see them

It is clear to me that Trump has a whole host of Russian connections and entanglements. I also imagine a great many Russian politicians and businessmen have entanglements with the US. Welcome to the world of international finance, business, and politics. With Trump, I’d even go so far as to say he’s more connected than average.

It is also clear to me that the Russians decided to get involved in the US election and try to sway the outcome. I’m not a super big fan of US intelligence and spying, but I believe for the most part those agencies try to serve their missions and speak the truth as they know it. Their tracking of hackers and websites putting out propaganda into the US market are very plausible. I know we do the same sort of thing from time to time when we think our interests are at stake. We hack, we try to influence with propaganda, so do they.

Correlation is not causality

But these two facts alone, don’t get you to some kind of conspiracy. For that, you need proof that Trump made a deal with the Russians of some kind. That one party came to an understanding with the other where the Russians would do X and in return, Trump or one of his agents would do Y. As of yet, we’ve got nothing that establishes this happened. Nor do we have a good scenario for what sort of quid pro quo would be established. What the Russians could do for Trump is pretty clear, we know they did business with him and we know they attacked his opponent in the election. But what Trump does for Russia is not so clear.

So far, none of his foreign policy has really focused on Russian concerns, and where they have intersected, Trump’s actions have mostly antagonized Russia and its leaders. Anything he’d want to do is unlikely to be able to be put through cart Blanche either. So far Trump has not really wielded a lot of actual power. And his rhetoric and style doesn’t lend itself to the types of actions Russia would like to see the US pursue. If anything, it is Trump’s overall weakness as a leader that benefits Putin and Russia and they don’t need to make any deals to benefit from that. It is plausible they acted more or less unilaterally in trying to pick the weaker of the two candidates.

The Red Scare

I smell a lot of opportunism in the left parading the Russians around as the big boogie man. That was the right’s job for the year of my childhood. I was told so often how they were the evil empire and the menace to our lives. I never bought into all that then, and I don’t buy into it now. Yes, they are our political opponents at times, and they are a real threat to some states in eastern Europe, but by and large, they are mostly looking for good deals for their companies much like we do. Being an opponent and rival is not the same as being evil and a present danger.

So when people try to say Trump is Putin’s errand boy, I ask, to what end? What exactly is Trump going to do that will so betray us to the Russians or lead to some great disaster for the US? If anything, I think demonizing them is counter-productive and dangerous. We don’t have to agree with them, or especially like their leader or policies, but hey are not the red menace any longer (if they ever really were). There is a long and proud tradition of the US in painting the opponent as the pawns of foreign powers, but our history really doesn’t show that ever to be true. It is just another form of bigotry used for political grandstanding and demonization and I have little use for it.

Last thoughts

So if Trump broke an election law, or some other law in his dealings with the Russians, and we can prove that definitively, then he should face the consequences. Lord knows I’d like to see him legitimately run out of office. If someone can show that Trump endangers American lives or liberties through his policy with regard to Russia because he is beholden to them, then I will get outraged by his connection to them. But barring these two cases, I just don’t care if Trump likes the Russians or the Russians like Trump.


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