Does it really matter if Russia is involved in America's presidential election?

Russia has been a strange focus of the 2016 Presidential Election. From the DNC email leaks to Trump’s connections to Russian businessmen. Russia hasn’t been an election issue since the late 1980s. Out of the debates arose contradictory understandings of how dangerous Russia is to the United States. It seems Russia has become a scapegoat more than anything else.

The US and Russia have developed stark rivalries in key aspects of foreign policy. Russia is now seen as the key adversary in US geopolitical strategy. The question isn’t whether or not Russia is a rival, but whether they truly are as great of a threat the foreign policy establishment says. It’s not so clear cut.

Russia today is a symbolic threat rather than a real one. Russia’s power is nowhere near that of the old USSR. It is unlikely Russia will be able to play such a role in the world again anytime soon. Russia is not necessarily weak as it was in the 1990s and early 2000s but it’s not a global superpower on par with the United States, however.

Does this mean that Russia isn’t a rival or potential threat to US foreign policy interests? No. We have to understand the nature of geopolitics to then understand how Russia is a “threat.” This is including its supposed influence in the current Presidential Election.

Russia became an election issue when it was reported the DNC email leaks were linked to Russian hackers. This particular issue has become rather silly. The Democratic Party has been able to shift the narrative. Rather than journalists and mainstream media focusing on the contents of the leak, the conversation has shifted to whether Russia is trying to influence the election in favor of Trump.

The contents of the email leak is more important than who leaked them. We should be upset at what was in the emails, not who hacked them. It’s a masterful strategy the Democratic political establishment has done. There are those who have read stories about the email leak and know nothing about the content of the emails. The only item taken away is that Russia is “hacking” our election.

It’s an unbelievable use of deception. Alas, it seems to have worked in distracting the public away from the dirty deeds of the DNC. The focus on Russia shifted away from the email leaks and onto Donald Trump’s connections. While the use of scapegoating in the case of the DNC leaks is ridiculous, there apparently is a real connection between Trump and Russian businessmen.

Trump, of course, is a moron and couldn’t help but open his mouth. He bragged about how he hoped Putin would do more hacks. Trump implied he wouldn’t necessarily mind if they influenced the election. This of course led to some digging. It turns out Donald Trump does have business ties to Russia.

Does this mean that Trump is an “agent” of Putin? No. It just means Trump is an unscrupulous businessman who did deals in Russia. Yes he has financial interests there, for sure. That’s the unfortunate nature of the robber-baron global capitalism we have, however. There are men like Trump across the board in the one percent. Hillary Clinton isn’t necessarily any better in this regard.

Trump does have interests in Russia. He certainly emulates this in his cozy language toward Putin. The main crux of the issue is the idea of Russia trying to influence the outcome of our election. Many Americans seemed shocked and chagrined about this. When one looks at history, even recent history however, this kind of action from Russia isn’t shocking. This is especially true when one considers the United States has interfered in elections across the world for decades.

Geopolitics is a dirty game. In a perfect world, great powers should be unable to interfere in the internal affairs of other nations. We don’t live in that world, unfortunately. It’s ridiculous for Americans to criticize Russia for offenses the US has committed for decades. While we harp on the Russians for daring to interfere in our internal politics, we must keep in mind that the US has turned interventionism into an art form.

Should Russia interfere in American internal politics? No, of course not. But, the US shouldn’t be involving itself in such situations either. Leave American exceptionalism aside for a moment. Objectively speaking, if America intervenes in another nation’s internal politics, how can we be so shocked that another country would do the same?

Keep in mind, Putin is a former KGB operative. It’s not just his worldview that is informed by this. The fact is Putin has participated in the geopolitical game against the United States in a close way. He knows how geopolitics works, and he knows how American intelligence and foreign policy operates.

We can’t deal with Putin without first understanding him. The sad reality is we don’t know anything about Putin or Russia. Our foreign policy establishment on Russia is not exactly great. We have almost no one in US foreign policy circles that truly understands Russia, or cares to understand anything about it. Vladimir Putin is the most vilified yet least understood foreign leader.

We have to try and understand Putin’s mindset. Putin believes he has been targeted for regime-change by the US for years. His fears were apparent when a series of anti-Putin protests broke out in Russia between 2011 and 2012.

Putin considers himself merely reacting to slights against him. Putin (whether justified or not) does have a real belief that he is a target. This could explain the supposed Russian involvement in the election. We can’t dismiss this, whether you agree with Putin’s perception or not.

Is Putin an unsavory character? Sure. Just about any leader of any government is unsavory in some way. Is Putin exceptionally wicked? No. He’s no worse than any other leader of any other government. Putin has a stockpile of nuclear weapons that could destroy the planet several times over, however. We have to be smart about this.

Russia is a country we have to cope with going forward. Risking hot conflict with them is out of the question. It is unfortunate the nature of geopolitics is the way it is. Russia can’t stand as an exception to a rule that has no exceptions. Geopolitics is an amoral game. States are not moral actors. States exist to propagate their power. The larger the state, the more clear this is. Russia and the United States are large nations. No one side is exceptionally good or bad in this regard.

No matter how bad Putin may behave, we can’t use that as a reason to shield insight into our own political corruption. Whether or not Putin helped leak the DNC emails, we the people know the truth now. We know the primary was uneven. Our democracy had the scale tilted. We shouldn’t care who revealed the truth. We should care only about the truth!

2 COMMENTS

  1. Can we skip the hand-wringing and tooth gnashing over virtue and just get out there and fight the battle? None of the past three weeks has had any conversation about homelessness, fixing the Affordable Care Act, dealing with our crumbling infrastructure. There’s even been an announcement about yet another school with undrinkable water!!!

    Whatever disagreements you may have as a pure progressive about the Clintons, let me ask you this: is it any reason not to seize the advantage and keep not only keep the White House but also retake the Senate?

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