I am a Ukrainian-Jewish-American. My relatives in Ukraine live in a perpetual state of fear of war with Russia, a country that has oppressed Jews, Ukrainians, and defenders of freedom alike for centuries. And yet even I, in the words of Bernie Sanders, am ‘sick and tired’ of hearing about President Trump’s ties with Russia.
We have been inundated with stories, blown far out of proportion, about Russia’s alleged election hacking and its secret meetings with the President’s closest advisors. Days ago, Robert Mueller’s investigation into election meddling arrested Paul Manafort and set its sights on Michael Flynn. Now, President Trump and his team are no strangers to controversy — the only difference being that this smear effort, aside from being entirely fabricated, is also being perpetuated by Republicans and Democrats alike. Unsurprisingly, the only bipartisan effort in Congress in decades is making our country, and the rest of the planet, less prosperous and safe.
Did the Russians attempt to influence the U.S. election? Probably — by helping WikiLeaks release actual incriminating emails from the Clinton campaign days before the election, similar to how NBC released a lude video of Trump that they had been sitting on for years. While Democrats were furious over Clinton’s leaked emails, they seem all too ecstatic to capitalize on every single leak coming out of the White House, even those which undermine the presidency and the US’s trustworthiness worldwide.
In fact, if my memory serves me well, only four years ago the Democrats were bashing Mitt Romney mercilessly for harboring “a backwards Cold War philosophy.” Today, Democrat leaders are nearly quoting Romney, verbatim, if not being more antagonistic toward the nuclear power. But that kind of partisan hypocrisy is to be expected from a party without a leader, a message, or a comprehensive plan to take back power.
On the other side of the aisle, the “maverick” John McCain and his neoconservative fellows have set US foreign policy back decades by voting, 97-0, to leash his own party’s President of the ability to use sanctions on Russia as leverage in negotiations.
Others are calling for regulation of social media, a clear violation of the First Amendment, to prevent Russian “agents” from exposing the legitimate problems in our democracy.
This unprecedented blow has been fueled by the ever-growing list of Trump cabinet members, associates, and even his own son, who have been reported as having private meetings with Russian government “affiliates.” Certainly, the likes of Paul Manafort have profited handsomely from their ties to Russia, but how their communication with the Trump campaign has hurt the US is beyond me. Other than generating revenue for media outlets, what sinister ends could such meetings possibly accomplish? A comprehensive strategy on battling global terrorism? An increase in trade with a largely untapped market in Russia? How ghastly!
There is a legitimate argument to be made that negotiations, such as the ones the Trump team attempted to hold with Russia, must be more transparent to prevent an abuse of power on our side (we are looking through the rearview mirror on abuse of power in Russia). However, with the taboo against Russia being fomented by desperate Democrats and poster-child-for-term-limits John McCain, genuine, open discussion is made more difficult, if not impossible.
Secondly, there is legitimacy within the call to hold Russia accountable for its global “election meddling” and for a plethora of human rights violations. Without a doubt, the Russian government is a middle-eastern style dictatorship, headed by one man’s cult of personality, and governed through torture, fear, and repression. Any attempt to bring “democracy” to the Russian state, however, begs the question of what would come to replace it. The foreign policy of the past few decades have been wrought with failed attempts at “spreading” western values – the Taliban in Afghanistan, and ISIS in Iraq and Libya aren’t quite upstanding western citizens.
Moreover, unlike Gadhafi or Hussein, Putin neither espouses any violent religious or ethnic ideology nor harbors an explicit mandate against the west. Rather, he is a KGB strongman attempting to hold a nation of high ethnic tensions and income inequality together through sheer force. Not to mention, unlike Saddam and Gaddafi, Putin also holds the second largest nuclear arsenal in the world.
Even in our wishful thinking, if we could somehow topple Putin without initiating the destruction of the world, what would come to replace him? Hundreds of independent republics, some of which would join China, another geopolitical enemy of ours, while others, like Chechnya, would become a breeding ground for Islamic terrorism? Russia, like the other Middle Eastern dictators whom we have toppled, is a global stabilizer. In fact, they share our commitment to combatting terrorism and nuclear proliferation, two far greater existential threats to the US than Putin’s amassed wealth.
Unlike our own President, Putin is a very deliberate, practical leader, who can always be counted on to do whatever solidifies his grip on power. When we enact punitive sanctions, Russia pushes back with a visceral anti-west propaganda machine. The downtrodden people of the region become desperate and hungry, and the majorities grow to blame us for their woes. My family and I have experienced, first-hand, the danger that a desperate Russia poses. Let history, rather than partisan bickering, serve as our guide. Russo-phobia will not bring democracy, or stability, to the world — it will only aggravate all the problems that the likes of John McCain have helped create.
Collaboration and cooperation with Russia — preferably open collaboration, if the US media and political establishment ever allow for it — can realize the shared goal of combating global terrorism, and, over time, even usher the Russian people back into the fold of Western democracy. Failure to do so, due to the partisan recklessness of Democrats and Republicans alike, will likely cause the U.S. to spiral into the same disastrous economy and rampant terrorism that created the totalitarian Russian state of today.
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