Politics & Policy

Russianism

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via Reuters)
Trump’s critics need a scapegoat to explain why they haven’t managed to vanquish him.

Russianism is a psychological malady in which furor at Donald Trump’s election victory and presidency — and the ensuing depression resulting from the inability to abort it — finds release through fixation on Russia.

 

‘Extremely vigorous in our outreach’

The recent orthodox progressive and Democratic view of Russia — until the appearance of Donald Trump — was largely what it had been throughout the Cold War: one of empathy for Russia and understanding of its dilemmas, and shame over supposed right-wing American paranoia over a bogus “Russian bear.”

Obama’s 2009 reset was birthed as a correction to George W. Bush’s modest sanctions against the Putin government for going into Ossetia. What then followed during the Obama administration was the embarrassing red reset-button rhetoric that was usually couched in anti-Bush-administration snark.

Or, as Hillary Clinton put it:

We believe that there are a lot of challenges and threats that we have inherited that we have to address. But there are also opportunities, and we are being extremely vigorous in our outreach. Because we’re testing waters, we’re determining what is possible. We’re turning new pages and resetting buttons.

Then we witnessed a “turning new pages” effort by the Obama administration to downplay Russian aggression and emphasize its own new creative outreach to Putin. They thought the Russian strongman would be charmed by humanitarian sanctimoniousness and the hope-and-change charisma of Barack Obama. Instead, Putin, true to character, saw weakness accompanied by pious sermonizing. That is always a fatal combination when dealing with a brute. And so, Putin proceeded to gather up his easy pickings.

What variously ensued was the inadvertent hot-mic offer of quid pro quo collusion with Putin by President Obama when he was up for reelection. Obama more than fulfilled this promise when, in early 2013 — after Putin’s 2012 hiatus in aggression — he cancelled the final phase of missile defense based in Eastern Europe. There was the iconic but cheap attack on candidate Mitt Romney for supposedly being obsessed with Russia as a geopolitical enemy. The Obama administration showed indifference to the absorption of Crimea and eastern Ukraine. There was also not much anger over prior Russian cyberattacks on the United States. In October 2016, Obama offered a haughty, flat-out dismissal of the notion that Russia could change the way people vote in any election:

There is no serious person out there who would suggest somehow that you could even rig America’s elections, there’s no evidence that that has happened in the past or that it will happen this time.

His optimism was apparently predicated on his certainty that Hillary Clinton would win and that a defeated and humiliated Donald Trump should not post facto “whine” about losing.

Hillary Clinton was instrumental in persuading the U.S. government to green-light sales of American uranium to Putin-connected companies. It is surely not a coincidence that Russian interests paid Bill Clinton a $500,000 honorarium for a single speaking gig in Moscow, shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, and that pro-Putin Russians gave multimillion-dollar donations to the Clinton Foundation. Such largesse was never repeated after 2016, when the market value of the Clinton brand crashed after 16 years of more-than-market returns. We forget that Democratic arch-fund-raiser and lobbyist Tony Podesta also received generous fees from Russians, who presumed that his brother (top Clinton aide John Podesta) would soon be part of the new Clinton administration.

Obama refused to arm the Ukrainians and his green-energy, anti-fracking policies played right into Russian oil interests. His defense cuts contributed to NATO laxity. Secretary of State John Kerry invited Putin into the Middle East after a 40-year hiatus. It proved a pathetic effort to get the Obama administration off the hook of enforcing the very ultimatum — the now infamous red line — that it had issued to the genocidal Assad government, and it might well have convinced Putin that annexing former Soviet territory would likewise have few consequences. In sum, according to the protocols of contemporary progressive hysteria and an unhinged media, all of the above, if done by the Trump administration, would have been redefined as impeachment-worthy collusion — or far worse.

Collusion Envy

Robert Mueller was tasked with investigating Russian collusion in the 2016 election. He was supposed to find proof that Trump campaign officials deliberately collaborated with Russian agents to subvert the election and thereby achieve through foreign subterfuge what they could not secure through votes.

Yet that mandate was jettisoned just weeks after Mueller began, apparently once his lawyers sensed what Peter Strzok (soon to be on his investigatory team) already knew when he had texted Lisa Page, “There’s no big there there” —an impression that both James Comey and James Clapper later shared when they confessed that they had no evidence of Russian collusion.

After a year and a half, Mueller so far has been reduced to indicting some Russians operatives for cyber crimes and a few former Trump officials on charges that have had nothing to do with collusion.

But out of the Mueller conundrum and congressional investigations arose damning information that Obama national-security officials illegally unmasked and leaked to the press the names of those surveilled. In addition, DOJ and FBI officials deliberately misled either gullible or partisan FISA court judges to obtain surveillance warrants on American citizens, on the basis of an unverified dossier paid for by the Clinton campaign and the DNC.

Discredited FBI officials lied to federal investigators. The former FBI director leaked confidential memos written on FBI time on FBI devices, and he probably worked with CIA Director John Brennan (who had previously lied twice under oath to the United States Congress) to monitor the Trump campaign, including but not limited to implanting government informants among Trump employees.

In other words, once Mueller deviated from his original mandate in order to search for wrongdoing anywhere he could find it, he was obligated to look at the acts of illegality committed by those in the Obama NSC, FBI, CIA, and DOJ, all in connection with thwarting the Trump campaign. He did not do so because his “dream” or “all-star” legal team was overwhelmingly composed of either Democratic partisans and donors to the Clinton campaign, or biased zealots such as Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, or those with prior affinities with Hillary Clinton or her employees and supporters. Again, Strzok’s own texts reveal his assumption that taking up Mueller on his offer to join the investigative team could be a career enhancer if it were to lead to Trump’s impeachment.

In sum, Russian collusion is a 2016 election construct. The hysteria over it serves a palliative for hatred of a presidency that so far cannot be stopped before 2020. Had Hillary Clinton won the election as experts assured the nation she would, there would be no Mueller investigation, either of Trump or of wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton. Now-fired or reassigned FBI grandees like Andrew McCabe or Peter Strzok and DOJ officials such as Bruce Ohr would have thrived. If anything, embracing conflicts of interest and bias to successfully warp an election would be seen as a sacrifice to be rewarded, not culpability to be punished.

The Russian Wickerman

As for Russia itself, it is as much an enemy or friend of the U.S. as is China. But its espionage campaign against the U.S. pales in scope and resources to that of the Chinese. Russia’s aggressions along its borders do not match China’s intimidation of neighbors or its creation and militarization of some atolls in the Spratly Islands or its neocolonial global initiatives.

North Korea’s nuclear proliferation was mostly the work of China, not Russia. Russia worries about China and radical Islam almost as much as we do. In terms of population and economic clout, current defense investments, and bellicosity shown the U.S., China is the existential threat, not Russia.

The progressive-driven effort to re-create the Cold War is surreal, given the far greater threat of an ascendant China and leftists’ past appeasement of Putin.

All that is not to say that Putin would not act like China if he could, only that he lacks the wherewithal to do so, with an economy one-twentieth the size of ours, and with longstanding crises of demography, longevity, and social equilibrium. Without his nuclear arsenal, Putin’s would be as dangerous to the U.S. as an Iran or Venezuela.

In light of this, the progressive-driven effort to re-create the Cold War is surreal, given the far greater threat of an ascendant China and leftists’ past appeasement of Putin. Again, demonizing Russia as singularly evil is a useful tactic insofar as it delegitimizes the Trump presidency, and squares the circle of denial that front-runner Hillary Clinton blew the election. Yet Putin as Satan is also a dangerous notion — Russia has nearly 7,000 nuclear weapons in its arsenal. One of the stupidest policies in recent U.S. diplomacy was the prior lose-lose Obama program of first courting Putin as a misunderstood figure likely to reciprocate liberal empathies, then, when rebuffed, demonizing him as an ogre worthy of a new Cold War.

It is difficult now to imagine what else Trump might still do to punish Putin. He has already beefed up sanctions, expelled Russians, had Russian mercenary thugs killed in Syria, sent threats to Putin not to overreach in Syria, armed the Ukrainians, expanded U.S. oil production, increased defense spending, jawboned NATO to toughen up, and blasted German-Russian appeasement and the dangerous developing German dependency on Russian fossil fuels.

What more concrete action do Trump haters want: air strikes on Moscow? Or would they prefer that Trump drop all the above of punitive action, if Trump only would guarantee Putin that after his envisioned reelection in 2020, American policy would be “more flexible” in ending all talk of U.S. missile defense in Eastern Europe?

The Mueller/collusion façade, like the Russia-is-Satan construct, also serves progressives as a means of psychological projection. Damning Moscow 24/7 makes up for prior appeasement of Putin 24/7, the same way that the “collusion” fantasy diverts attention from the reality that Obama-administration officials sought to warp a U.S. election by abusing FISA courts, weaponizing the intelligence agencies, colluding with the Clinton campaign in peddling bought opposition research, working with unethical toady journalists, and planting informants in a presidential campaign.

And the font of this malaise? Progressives need a scapegoat to blame for their disastrous election loss in 2016 and their lack of a persuasive agenda, which, hand-in-glove, turned over the Congress, the presidency, and the Supreme Court to progressives’ worst nightmare.

NOW WATCH: ‘Mitt Romney Was Right About Russia’

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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