By making Donald Trump their nominee, the Republicans seem less like Cold Warriors than the Democrats, whose nominee, Hillary Clinton, would likely take a tougher line with Moscow.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016. Photo: AP
In his recent op-ed in Russia Direct, James Carden offers a serious and sober assessment of how Russia factored into the Republican and Democratic national conventions, which took place in the United States over the past two weeks.
Many of the points Carden makes are spot on, especially the recognition that the Republicans, who unceasingly bashed the former Soviet Union during the Cold War, seem meek in their criticism of Russia today compared to the Democrats, who are savoring every opportunity to link Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump has left himself wide open for attack. He’s offered many public statements, such as this one, suggesting that he admires Putin. I noted in my analysis of the Republican convention that Trump and his team succeeded in muting criticism of Russian in the Republican Party platform and on the speakers’ stage. Talking Points Memo reported that Trump has had to rely more and more on Russian money to meet his complicated financial commitments.
Should Trump be elected, this combination of admiration plus silencing critical commentary plus business dealings could mean a president of the United States who would be unwilling or unable to rebuke Putin for his autocratic policies.
In sum, there were multiple opportunities for the current and former Democratic politicians who appeared on stage in Philadelphia during their national convention to suggest that Trump is coddling Russia and Putin while Moscow is engaged in Cold War-like activity. Russia’s role in the violence in Ukraine and the state-sanctioned use of performance-enhancing drugs for Olympic athletes are two much-discussed examples of such behavior.
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A few days ago, in the midst of the Democratic convention, Trump again exhibited his volatile temperament and questionable judgment, urging Russia to find roughly 30,000 missing emails belonging to former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Whether it was ignorance of U.S. law or arrogance in not caring about such legal niceties, Trump’s words equated to endorsing espionage. His subsequent efforts to label what he said as a joke fell on deaf ears, as they should have.
Also last week, a hack of the Democratic National Committee email servers was revealed, which appears to be the work of Russians. The Clinton camp used the incident as Exhibit A to back up its claim that Russia is trying to influence the November presidential election. The press seized on the Russia angle of this story, focusing on linking the hack to Moscow rather than on the content of the emails themselves, which show that top Democratic officials were eager to make Clinton their party’s nominee.
Such tactics have no place in American democracy, but in the current geopolitical environment, the media is more interested in the likely Russia connection than in a robust conversation about the ethics of trying to steer a political candidate into the winner’s circle.
Russia Direct has outlined what a new Cold War between the U.S. and Russia could mean. The crisis in Syria, the international effort to stamp out terrorism and the potential for Russian-Chinese relations to strengthen are three conflict points. At this point, American voters have no idea how Trump would handle any of these issues.
It’s not clear he has any idea, either. Clinton said nothing about Russia in her acceptance speech on Thursday evening, but her previous behavior and statements lead to an assumption that she would take a firm line with Putin that, at least in the short term, would keep U.S.-Russian relations in their current uncomfortable state.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.