The Corner

White House

With Mueller’s Report Complete, Will Democrats Remain Russia Hawks?

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a joint news conference following their summit meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

One of the weirdest aspects of the Trump collusion theory was watching the Democratic party turn into hardcore Russia hawks, almost overnight.

We all remember Obama’s scoffing to Mitt Romney, “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign-policy back, because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.” The Democrats didn’t, en masse, turn into loud and outspoken Putin critics after the polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006; Russia’s threat to bomb Eastern European missile-defense sites in 2012; Russia’s decision to take in Edward Snowden in 2013; the annexation of Crimea in 2014; the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine in 2014; or Russia’s intervention in the Syrian civil war in 2015. Nor did you hear much from the average Democrat about the Novichok nerve-agent poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury in 2018. No, what really got the Democrats mad about Russia was Putin’s preference for Donald Trump in 2016 and his hacking of DNC and John Podesta’s emails.

It’s understandable that Democrats would be angriest about the Russian crimes that hit closest to home. But in the long and ugly history of Vladimir Putin and his cronies running the Russian government, hacking into Americans’ private emails doesn’t crack the top-ten worst things they’ve ever done.*

In the minds of many Democrats, Trump wasn’t a villain for saying nice things about Putin; Putin was a villain for saying nice things about Trump.

With the Russia investigation no longer likely to lead to criminal charges for Trump or his family, and no longer likely to lay out an easily justifiable argument for impeachment, one has to wonder if Democrats will remain so hawkish on Russia.

If Democrats meant what they said, they will continue to want the toughest-possible sanctions on Moscow, as much aid to Ukraine as possible, call for the removal of Russian forces from Crimea, showcase Russia’s hideous human-rights record, expose Vladimir Putin’s long list of abominable crimes, and fully embrace a foreign policy of deterrence. They would want as much joint training with the Baltic states as possible.

If Democrats remain Russia hawks, it will be a pleasant surprise. But if they lose interest in Putin and Russia, it will be further proof that they only saw the topic as a useful tool against Trump, and never had all that much concern about Eastern Europe.

(*Because some idiot will claim this must be hyperbole, in no particular order: Wiping Grozny off the face of the earth; probably making false-flag terror attacks in 1999; murdering and assassinating political foes; killing journalists who write critical stories about his policies; invading and occupying parts of Georgia; shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight 17;  torturing critics; trying to poison Alexander Litvinenko with polonium; backing Ramzan Kadyrov’s brutal rule of Chechnya and blocking investigations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria are all worse than hacking.)

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