The Russian Boogeyman has returned! Or has it? Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016 has created a narrative that Russia is responsible. The narrative states that Russia was not only behind the DNC hacks, but also supposedly hacked into voting machines themselves. A false narrative now believed by a majority of Democrats. This narrative is creating a dangerous climate both at home and abroad. Putin’s Russia is painted as a grave and exceptional danger to the US and the West.
Tensions with Russia have not been this sour since the 1980s. Vladimir Putin is painted as the world’s ultimate villain by the DC establishment. He is the Russian Boogeyman personified. This narrative against Putin had been brewing for the past decade, culminating in the 2016 election.
Putin is not exactly a savory character. It’s not impossible that the Russians hacked the DNC. Interference in the politics of other nations is something that Russia and the United States have done for years, including to each other. It wouldn’t be shocking if Russia hacked into the DNC.
Still, the intelligence community has presented no hard evidence to prove that Russia was behind the hacks. Officials merely assert that Russia is behind the hacks based on experience. That’s not exactly evidence. The CIA and “intelligence community” are notorious liars as well. The CIA lied before, including convincing Congress that Iraq had WMDs. James Clapper, head of the NSA, lied when he said they were not collecting bulk data on Americans. That’s cause for skepticism. Their framing that Russia hacked the election for Donald Trump (without evidence) is also very dangerous.
Tensions with Russia have been ramping up for years. These allegations certainly won’t reduce them. What isn’t understood here in the saber rattling is that Russia is a nuclear armed power. Russia has the largest nuclear stockpile in the world, more than capable of destroying the US and Europe. Russia is not Iraq, Libya, nor Iran for that matter. Conflict with them has drastic consequences that won’t be easily reversed.
NATO has been beefing up forces in Eastern Europe. This is in response to Russia’s action in Crimea, but still poses a great danger. Issues are still tense between the US and Russia in Syria. The danger posed by a breakout of conflict is unimaginable. We can’t be lite about this. War with Russia means possible destruction for the world.
The rhetoric is boiling. Some have asserted Putin is an existential danger on par with ISIS. Others have described him as a “new Hitler” just waiting for the moment to strike. It’s sad that the term Hitler is thrown around so loosely. It doesn’t mean anything today. Every world leader we don’t like is painted as a Hitler. Saddam was Hitler, Gadhafi was Hitler, Assad is Hitler. Little Hitlers running around all over the place.
Such a narrative about Russia is dangerous and unnecessary. Has Russia misbehaved? Of course. They invaded Georgia in 2008 and annexed Crimea in 2014. Both acts were highly illegal under international law. But, Russia did not commit these acts because they are an exception to the family of nations.
Noam Chomsky laid out the morality of foreign policy among nations succinctly. There is no morality. The United States and the West doesn’t fear Russia because they are an exceptional danger. Russia is feared because it behaves as other nations do. Anyone who takes treaties and agreements with nation states to heart is extremely naïve. Nations break agreements and treaties all the time. Look what the US Congress just did to the Iran Deal. Geopolitics is an amoral game. Russia is not an exceptional country, its standard behavior for a country like Russia.
It’s hard to be shocked at Russia’s behavior over the last decade. This is especially true when you learn what the US has also done. To say the US keeps and abides by its international agreements is ludicrous. To say the US behaves as a moral actor is equally ludicrous.
The United States invaded Iraq in 2003. No UN resolution approved this. The invasion was illegal under international law. The invasion destroyed Iraq. Well over 100,000 Iraqi civilians were killed, as well as 4,000 American soldiers. Iraq today is still torn apart by conflict. While the US moans about Russia bombing in Syria, Saudi Arabia is bombing Yemen into starvation.
US foreign policy sins could be listed in dramatic detail. Russia has behaved no more aggressively in the world than the US has. We are told that Russia is a grave threat and that “something must be done.” This has all been amplified by the 2016 hacking allegations. A new Cold War, or potentially a Hot War, is not worth this kind of drama. Destructive wars have been fought over a lot less.
Freedom to question the US narrative is under threat. Cold War era red-baiting has returned. It’s ironic that its now the Democrats championing this tactic, which had long been a calling card of Republicans. Anyone who questions the narrative is now by definition an agent of Putin.
Being skeptical makes you a Putin “troll.” This is unhealthy in democratic discussion. Anyone who does not confine to the narrative is written off. That is extremely dangerous. This also forces progressives to feel they must overcompensate in attacking Putin. Just criticize Putin when he gives a reason to do so and there are plenty of them. Understand the broader context of geopolitics before you chalk him up as the new Hitler, however. No one’s skepticism of their government should be silenced due to allegations without evidence. Nor should we risk World War III based on assertion alone.