I see that Donald Trump’s summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki has caused liberals and Never Trumpers to go into absolute meltdown, even by their usual standards. The word “treason” is being thrown around like confetti, along with calls for impeachment which, to be honest, would be made if Trump wore mismatching socks.
So what’s Trump supposed to have done? Handed over billions of dollars in cash to America-hating loons in return for giving up nuclear weapons? Taken a seat on the board of a Russian state-owned energy giant? Accepted hefty donations from foreign powers to a charity he controls? Nope, none of that:
At a news conference after the summit, President Trump was asked if he believed his own intelligence agencies or the Russian president when it came to the allegations of meddling in the elections.
“President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” he replied.
US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scale of the US election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.
This is interpreted by Trump’s opponents as him “siding” with Putin against his own country. What is missing among the outrage I’m reading is an acknowledgement that this is nothing new. Here’s a news report from last November:
President Vladimir Putin feels insulted by allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US election, Donald Trump has said after meeting him briefly at an Asia-Pacific summit in Vietnam.
“You can only ask so many times… he said he absolutely did not meddle in our election,” the US president said.
Mr Putin later dismissed the allegations as “political infighting”.
The US intelligence community has already concluded that Russia tried to sway the poll in favour of Mr Trump.
President Trump has refused to acknowledge a reported assessment by the CIA and other intelligence agencies that Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the run-up to last year’s presidential election.
So nothing has changed, allowing me to merely repeat what I said back then.
You don’t actually need to trust Putin an inch to believe he is telling the truth that he didn’t try to swing the outcome of the US election. None of this passed the smell test from the beginning, and the whole think reeked of an effort to explain Hillary’s catastrophic loss and an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency. I always suspected Putin found all of these accusations highly amusing; other than the usual shit-stirring that Russia’s spy agencies have been involved in since the Soviet times, exploiting divisions in US society to sow chaos as part of their zero-sum rivalry with America, I very much doubt Russia had any involvement in the US election. For one thing, it’s never been explained why Putin would have preferred Trump to Clinton.
But more importantly, who can blame Trump for sitting on the fence here? Both the FBI and Department of Justice disgraced themselves during the election with regards to Hillary Clinton, and Obama spent eight years politicising other branches such as the IRS. Moreover, Trump’s efforts to “drain the swamp” have been met with ferocious opposition from what people call the Deep State, or (a term I prefer) the Permanent Government, i.e. those who have done extremely well from the status quo and for whom Trump represents an existential threat. Is the CIA part of this? Of course it is. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Trump could probably get a warmer reception walking into a branch of the Russian government in Moscow than an American one in DC. I’d even go so far as to say parts of the American government represent a far greater political and even mortal danger to Trump than Putin does. If you were Trump, who would you believe? Putin – who at least doesn’t pretend to have America’s interests at heart – or known liars in the American government who have sworn to remove Trump from office using fair means or foul? That’s a tough one.
Let me take a guess. Perhaps Trump has realised the entire American political establishment wants him gone and is doing everything they can to undermine and remove him; half the American electorate has gone into meltdown and, a year on from his election, are calling him a white supremacist Nazi when they’re not screaming at the sky; and supposedly intelligent and educated foreigners, particularly Europeans, are acting in a spectacularly immature manner over Trump while their own countries descend into chaos. Standing out from all this is Putin who, for all his faults, is remaining reasonably calm, acting like an adult, and not throwing around childish insults. Little wonder Trump is taking him more seriously than anyone else.
The lessons that ought to be drawn from this are that if you demonise your own president and try to bring him down, he will take his friends where he finds them; and if you insist on acting like a child, the adults in the room will ignore you and talk among themselves. Thus far, the reaction seems to indicate the exact opposite.
It appears Trump’s opponents are still reluctant to change course. What I find annoying is Russia’s actions did warrant a robust international response – the annexation of Crimea, the invasion of eastern Ukraine, the shooting down of MH-17 – but nobody did anything other than impose middling sanctions (which European countries immediately sought to undermine). The same people who were too scared to confront Russia then are now calling Trump treasonous for not holding Putin’s feet to the fire over the same issues in Helsinki. They are also wholly in denial of the fact that, regardless of his words, Trump’s actions have done more to harm Russia than anything his predecessor did, and he doesn’t appear to be letting up. Sure, he didn’t object to Russia having a free reign in Syria but that’s hardly detrimental to American interests, and don’t forget the Americans killed several hundred Russian or Russian-backed forces in the country when they made the mistake of messing with a US military run by James Mattis. And skeptical though I might have been about Putin ordering the novichok hit on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, the response of Trump’s administration was no less robust than any other nation and considerably more so than some. Odd behaviour indeed for a bought-and-paid-for Russian puppet.
The explanation is simple. Other than a bunch of neocons and Russian émigré lunatics like Max Boot, Julia Ioffe, and Garry Kasparov who want the US to launch a full-scale war on their former countrymen, this isn’t about Russia at all. As it’s been since the night of the election, it’s simply another vehicle with which Trump’s political opponents are trying to unseat him, and avoid their having to admit Hillary was a lousy candidate. As I wrote back in February:
What this is, and always has been, is an attempt to save Hillary Clinton’s face. She lost the election fair and square because she was an appalling candidate, and rather than accept it, her supporters are prepared to wreck already fraught relations with a serious geopolitical rival to spin this ludicrous narrative. The damage this woman has done to the USA is incredible, and still it continues, yet everyone blames Trump. There are people out there, some of whom laughably call themselves conservatives, who believe this latest indictment is proof that Russia is at war with the United States.
Yesterday Politico ran a piece saying Putin’s “hacking” of the 2016 election was the equivalent of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The actions of some branches of the government – particularly the FBI, Department of Justice, and possibly the CIA – meet the definition of sedition without question, and if they’d done it in previous eras the individuals involved would have been jailed for life or possibly even executed. Yet we’re supposed to believe that Trump, when speaking at a press conference, committed treason and plunged America into its darkest moment since its founding? These people are utterly deranged.
The irony is the American establishment’s refusal to accept that Donald Trump is president and Hillary Clinton lost is doing far greater and longer lasting damage to the USA than anything Putin, or indeed his Soviet predecessors, could have wished for in their wildest dreams. Whatever America’s greatest threat is, it isn’t Russia and Putin; it lies much, much closer to home.