Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Fake Russia Collusion and the Crisis in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin is in the process of creating a nearly impossible situation for NATO and its allies. It’s all but certain the Luhansk and Donetsk separatist regions of Ukraine will be annexed by the end of September through a so-called “referendum.” Essentially, this gives Russia the excuse it needs to categorize any attack on the occupied areas as an attack on Russia itself. One would assume that NATO would then be held accountable for any weapons it supplied to the Ukraine military in its efforts to take those regions back.

Once again, Putin has threatened to use nuclear weapons and made it a point to remind the world he is not bluffing. At almost 70-years-old and purportedly in poor health, the chances a madman is in control of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal are real and cannot be discounted.

Assuming the worst doesn’t occur, future historians will spend countless hours analyzing what brought us to the brink of another world war, but it’s unlikely they’ll include the primary reason in their treatise.

As with many of America’s problems in 2022, our adversarial relationship with Russia is directly tied to the 2016 election and the efforts of Democrats and the Deep State to topple a sitting president. It’s important to remember that political dogmatists approach every matter from the perspective of power. Strategies and actions ignore consequences in pursuit of the goal, so their myopic vision blocks out concern for collateral damage. As long as the action moves them closer to the authoritarian state they seek, nothing is out of bounds, no matter how destructive it may be for America.

As Deborah Welch Larson and Alexei Shevchenko from the Harvard Kennedy School, Belfer Center, point out, prestige is extremely important to China, and especially Russia, as they search for recognition and status. In the past, Putin and other Russian leaders, at least pre-Biden, used the opportunity to meet with American presidents to sign agreements for trade, disarmament, research and other important matters. In essence, these summits were grand photo ops used to enhance the image of the Russian leader back home, which almost always boosted his popularity and silenced the opposition.

Yet, in 2016, when allegedly the Democrats, the Clinton campaign, the FBI and the media conspired to construct a false narrative about collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, it set off a chain reaction of events that has ultimately led us to this dark place in a distant foreign land.

The ongoing investigation, which everyone involved apparently knew was false, paralyzed President Trump to the extent it was virtually impossible to carry on meaningful diplomacy with Putin. In four years, Trump had three substantive meetings with the Russian President: two at the G-20 and one official summit in Helsinki in July 2018. Badgered by the media with questions about fake Russia collusion, Trump insisted Putin had vigorously denied any involvement in election interference and was insulted by the accusation. Putin himself called the charges “utterly ridiculous.” At the close of the meeting during a joint press conference, Trump expressed his belief in Putin’s sincerity, and as a result, he was absolutely skewered by the media, who made the fake Russia collusion issue the entire focus of the summit.

Insulted and humiliated, Putin lost his chance to improve his image at home and globally, and America lost its chance to keep Putin from becoming a bitter adversary. U.S.- Russian relations took a significant turn for the worse and have never recovered.

By November 2018, with the Mueller investigation in full swing, Trump reportedly avoided Putin at a G-20 meeting in Buenos Aires, which could only have been perceived as a slight. Yet, there was simply no way Trump could afford the bad optics and media feeding frenzy that would accompany another meeting with Putin, especially if it was in private. As a result, the two men never spoke again except for a Christmas greeting in December of the same year.

After essentially four years of isolation, and NATO’s continued encroachment into traditionally neutral territories, Putin had enough, and here we are. Instead of a master negotiator at the table to forge a workable agreement as Trump did in North Korea and the Middle East, we have a doddering, senile fool, who mumbles incoherently and shakes hands with ghosts, holding the fate of the world in his hands.

I can’t shake the image of Boris Yeltsin defiantly standing on a tank in front of the Russian Parliament building in 1991, boldly ushering in a new era of democracy and friendship with the west.

How in the hell did we ever let it come to this?