April 26, 2019
MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey
Did the Russians Really Interfere in Our Elections? If so, how?
The Mueller Report is now public, and our unleashed Mainstream Media have filled the airways with all sorts of commentaries and interpretations. We know that—despite the very best efforts of the fervent Leftist attorneys on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s staff—there was absolutely no coordination between members of the Trump campaign, or any of his staffers, with Russians. No additional charges have come as a result, other than accusations made earlier of ridiculous “process crimes” (e.g. failure to report earnings on tax forms, failure to report lobbying work, or not telling investigators what they demanded to hear—“crimes” that practically every politician in Washington has been guilty of and would normally not cause much of a stir). None of these involved Russia.
Of course, that finding has not satisfied many Democrats or the unhinged Leftist crazies in the media, who continue to have visions of “collusion”—a kind of communications Alzheimers that has poisoned our media now for years. Thus, Representative Eric Swalwell (who is one of nearly two dozen Democrats running for president) continues to assert that there was “collusion,” as does the irrepressible (and irresponsible) Adam Schiff: “it’s there in plain sight,” they insist, “if you just look hard enough, and maybe squint just a bit—or maybe have those specialized 3-D Russia glasses!”
Such political leaders—along with those further out in the Leftist loonysphere like Representatives Maxine Waters and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortes—continue down their Primrose path of post-Marxist madness.
But beyond the collusion/coordination issue, the past couple of weeks have been filled with a swirling controversy concerning what is called “obstruction of justice.” And once again, the fundamental issues could not be clearer. Special Counsel Robert Mueller had an obligation, if he and his minions discovered “obstruction of justice,” that is, concerted and illegal attempts to obstruct the investigations by the president or his staff, to present charges to the Department of Justice. Yet, all he was able to do was assemble a farrago of “he said/she said” instances: apparently President Trump told subalterns “I wish we could stop this witch-hunt,” or he wished in a speech in his joking style that “if the Russians had Hillary’s emails, they would release them,” or he had a private conversation with Vladimir Putin when they met (as all national leaders do!), or his son met with a Russian attorney who supposedly had some “dirt” on the Hillary Clinton campaign (which did not turn out to be the reason for the Trump Tower meeting at all). And none of the ten or eleven cited instances came anywhere close to being actionable or criminal legally.
Mueller had an obligation after examining these situations to make a finding; he did not. By so doing, by avoiding decisions and stringing out such instances in an obviously political sense, he abdicated his responsibility and did his best to impugn Donald Trump and his administration…and thus offer grist for continued Democrat attacks on the president…all the way through the 2010 election.
Mueller left it up to the Attorney General William Barr…and Congress…to decide how to proceed. And that is where we are today.
The one issue that both Democrats and most Republicans seem to agree on, the issue which both say is “proven conclusively” by Mueller is that the Russians “attempted to interfere and did interfere” in our 2016 election.
Interesting, is it not, that the Republicans who zealously defend the president and attack the obviously political nature of the Mueller Report would accept, as if on faith and without question, the accusations of Russian interference, also contained in the report?
Turn on Fox and watch, say, Martha MacCallum (e.g., “The Story,” April 24, 2019) declare “we all know now without doubt that the Russians tried to interfere” in our elections, or listen to most any GOP congressman repeat that same narrative with unquestioning certitude.
But that assertion—is it truly backed up factually? Where is the evidence, other than largely questionable information sourced from our largely discredited intelligence agencies which, as we know, had a determined goal of overthrowing the president by any means possible?
Almost three years have passed from the first fake news that appeared in the media on the subject of “Russian meddling” and “collusion,” a concerted effort launched to discredit first the Donald Trump candidacy and then sabotage his presidency, including his efforts to stabilize Russian-American relations.
As proof of Russian actions, the Mueller Report cites the indictments against twenty-five Russian citizens who were cited for attempted “interference” (those Russians are, let us add, quite conveniently out of the country and thus not prosecutable). When those indictments were issued, Russia pointed out the flimsy, unsupported and transparently made-up nature of the charges, and demanded that, first, the Obama administration and then current American authorities, provide conclusive proof. Such requests were summarily rebuffed.
In order to clarify the cases and evaluate the evidence, the Russian government proposed reestablishing the bilateral expert group on information security that the Obama Administration had terminated, which could have served as a platform for conversation on these matters. The American side was also invited to send Justice Department officials to Russia to attend the proposed public questioning of Russian citizens accused by Mueller. Additionally, Russia offered to publicize the exchanges between the two countries following the publication of the accusations of cyberattacks, exchanges which were conducted through existing channels during the “hot period” between October 2016 and January 2017.
Our government refused every offer.
A careful analysis, in fact, fails to show any substantial evidence of Russian cyberattacks and attempts to “subvert democracy.” By various estimates, approximately $160,000—a paltry sum—was spent by the Russians during 2016 on cyber activities in the United States. Does anyone wish to discover and compare the amount the Chinese Communists or the Saudis would have expended during the same period, for their continued influence and power in Washington and inside-the-Beltway?
It is helpful to examine the charges that have been made, some included in the Mueller Report and accepted blindly by most pundits and politicians, both on the Left and the establishment Right.
The Russian government, via their embassy in Washington, has published a 120 page “white paper” [cf. Russian Response to the Mueller Report.pdf] responding to the accusations made against them since 2016. Obviously, the Russian document has a particular viewpoint and very specific goal, but that should not deter us from examining it and evaluating its arguments. Over several days I have checked its very numerous cited sources, cross-referenced them with my own extensive files and research (I have written on this topic on many occasions since 2016; for those interested I have dedicated MY CORNER columns and articles to the Russia investigation on February 6, 2017; September 19, 2017; October 14 and 24, 2017; November 25, 2017; December 17 and 24, 2017; January 1, 2018; February 17, 2018; June 13, 2018; July 14, 2018; and March 25, 2019).
Here following I list twenty-one claims made regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election and in American domestic affairs. I follow each claim with my summary of the Russian answer and how others, as noted, have also responded. In most cases I retain the original written expressions and, in every case, all the referenced sources.
My belief is that these twenty-one claims should be examined more closely and more calmly, and that the “Russophobic” hysteria we have experienced during the past several years needs to be put aside for the sake of rational investigative inquiry.
My hope is that you will excerpt these claims and the responses, and share them with friends and others. They deserve respectful consideration and detailed responses.
CLAIMS OF RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE IN AMERICAN POLITICS AND SOCIETY and RESPONSE
1. CLAIM: Russia “meddled” in the U.S. elections by conducting influence operations, including through social media.
All of the claims of Russian trolls that surfaced over the last few years (such as Russians using the Pokémon Go mobile game and sex toy ads to meddle in the elections - ) are so preposterous and contradictory that they virtually disprove themselves.
Not to mention the absurdity of the whole notion of 13 persons and 3 organizations (whichever country they might represent) charged on February 16, 2018, by Robert Mueller with criminally interfering with the elections, affecting in any way electoral processes in a country of more than 300 million people.
It is telling that when pressed about the scope of the alleged influence campaign, representatives of American social media companies give numbers, that even if they were valid (and there’s no evidence of a connection to the Russian government), are so minuscule as to be basically non-existent. For example, Facebook has identified 3,000 Russia-linked ads costing a total of about $100,000. That’s a miniscule number of ads and a fraction of Facebook’s revenues, which totaled $28 billion ( ). Facebook estimates that 126 million people might – the emphasis is on the word “might” - have seen this content. But this number represents just 0.004% of the content those people saw on the Facebook platform.
Significantly, Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee hearing on December 11th, 2018 that “ad accounts linked to Russia” spent about $4,700 in advertising” to politically influence Americans during the 2016 presidential election season ( ).
To further cast doubt on the allegations, an American watchdog group “Campaign for Accountability” (“CFA”) admitted on September 4th, 2018, that it deliberately posted propaganda materials on Google disguised as “Russian hackers from the Internet Research Agency” to check how they would be filtered for “foreign interference”. Google officials then accused the CFA as having ties to a rival tech company “Oracle”. In other words, corporate intrigues disguised as “Russian interference“. ).
As American media has admitted, out of several dozen pre-election rallies supposedly organized by Russians, Special Counsel Mueller mentions in his indictment that only a couple actually appear to have successfully attracted anyone, and those that did were sparsely attended and, almost without exception, in deep-red enclaves that would have voted for Trump anyway.
Amidst all the hysteria about the alleged Russian meddling it is worth reading various research studies which show, quoting “The Washington Post”, that it is Americans, in particular our intelligence service, that peddle disinformation and hate speech. ( )
According to Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, the scale and scope of domestic disinformation is much larger than any foreign influence operation. And academics from the Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy document in their study that there had been major spikes in outright fabrication and misleading information proliferating online before the 2018 U.S. election. A “significant portion” of the disinformation appeared to come from Americans, not foreigners, the Harvard researchers said.
2. CLAIM: Russian hackers accessed computer servers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and leaked materials through Wikileaks and other intermediaries
As President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin noted in his interview with NBC on June 5, 2017, when flatly denying any allegations of Russia interfering in internal affairs of the U.S., that today’s technology is such that the final internet address can be masked and camouflaged to an extent that no one will be able to understand the origin of that address. It is possible to set up any entity that may indicate one source when, in fact, the source is completely different. ( )
No evidence has been presented linking Russia to leaked emails. In fact, there are credible studies arguing that DNC servers are much more likely to have been breached by someone with immediate and physical access. In 2017 a group of former officers of the U.S. intelligence community, members of the “Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity” (VIPS), met with then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo to present their findings.
( ), Those findings demonstrated using forensic analysis that the DNC data was copied at a speed that far exceeds an Internet capability for a remote hack ( , , ), thus suggesting that it was more likely a removable storage device used.
Another counterargument to the “Russian hackers” claim is that the DNC files published by Wikileaks were initially stored under the FAT (File Allocation System) method which is not related to internet transfers and can only be forwarded to an external device such as a thumb drive.
It is also suspicious that the DNC prohibited the FBI from examining the servers. Instead, a third-party tech firm was hired, “Crowd Strike”, which is known for peddling the “Russian interference” claims. And soon enough it, indeed, announced that “Russian malware” has been found, but again no solid evidence was produced.
According to the respected former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, the indictment by the Mueller team on July 13, 2018 of the 12 supposed Russian operatives ( ) was a politically motivated fraud ( ). As Ritter explains, Mueller seems to have borrowed his list from an organizational chart of a supposed Russian military intelligence unit, contained in a classified document from the NSA titled “Spear-Phishing Campaign TTPs Used Against U.S. And Foreign Government Political Entities”, which was published by The Intercept online ( ). As stated in that document, this is just a subjective judgement, not a known fact. Ritter concludes, that this is a far cry from the kind of incontrovertible proof that Mueller’s team suggests as existing to support its indictment.
Moreover, it is telling that the indictment was released ( ) just before the meeting between President Putin and Trump in Helsinki on July 16, 2018, seemingly as if the aim was to intentionally derail the bilateral summit.
3. CLAIM: Donald Trump colluded with Russia in the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections.
As concluded in the summary of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, the investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia ()
If the Mueller team, having all the resources of the U.S. government, after 22 months of work, many millions of dollars spent (), more than 2800 subpoenas issued, nearly 500 search warrants and 500 witness interviews, didn’t find any evidence of “collusion”, it is simply because there was never any. The whole claim of collusion was launched and peddled by the same group of Democrats, liberal-leaning media and the so-called “Never Trump Republicans”, as it became clear that Donald Trump had real chances of winning the election. And later it morphed into a campaign to derail the newly-elected President agenda, including his efforts to mitigate the damage done to U.S.-Russian relations.
4. CLAIM: Hacking of American political institutions was personally ordered by the Russian President Vladimir Putin.
This claim is based on nothing else but the infamous fraudulent “Steele Dossier”( ), paid for by political opponents [i.e., the Hilary Clinton campaign] of Donald Trump, and wild conjectures that “nothing in Russia happens without Putin’s approval” .
Needless to say, zero proof is presented. By the same logic, nothing in the U.S. happens without the President’s approval. For example, is he also responsible for Edward Snowden? After all, Mr. Snowden was doing work for the U.S. intelligence services. Or the deaths of all the civilians killed abroad by U.S. drone strikes? Every minute detail approved by the President?
5. CLAIM: Russia did not cooperate with the U.S. in tracing the source of the alleged hacking.
Russia has repeatedly offered to set up a professional and de-politicized dialogue on international information security only to be rebuffed by the U.S. State Department. For instance, following the discussion between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump in Hamburg on July 7, 2017, Russia forwarded to the U.S. a proposal to reestablish a bilateral working group on cyber threats which would have been a perfect medium to discuss American concerns. Moreover, during his meeting with Donald Trump in Helsinki on July 17, 2018, Vladimir Putin offered to allow U.S. representatives to be present at an interrogation of the Russian citizens who were previously accused by the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller of being guilty of electoral interference ( ). Furthermore, in February 2019 the Russian government suggested publishing bilateral correspondence on the subject of unsanctioned access to U.S. electronic networks, which was conducted between Washington and Moscow through the Nuclear Threat Reduction Centers in the period from October 2016 to the end of January 2017.
Needless to say, all Russian offers were rejected. A conclusion is naturally reached that American State Department officials have little interest in hearing anything that contradicts their own narrative or the discredited version of the CIA.
6. CLAIM: Russia is interfering in elections all over the world
No credible evidence has been produced not only of Russia’s supposed meddling in the U.S. political processes, but to support similar allegations made by the U.S. in respect to other countries. For example, former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster insinuated that Russia was interfering in the Mexican presidential elections of 2018 ( ). However, Mexican officials, including the president of the Mexican Senate Ernesto Cordero Arroyo ( ), and Ambassador to Russia Norma Pensado during a press conference in Moscow in February, 2018 ( ), debunked this baseless claim.
Another example of fake news were reports saying that U.S. was increasingly convinced that Russia hacked French election on May 9, 2017 ( ). However, on June 1, 2017, the head of the French government’s cyber security agency said no trace was found of the claimed Russian hacking group behind the attack. ( ) On the other hand, the history of U.S. interfering in other countries’ elections is well documented by American sources (see: ).
For example, a Carnegie Mellon scholar, Dov H. Levin, has scoured the historical record and found 81 examples of U.S. election influence operations from 1946- to 2000 ( ). Often cited examples include Chile in 1964, Guyana in 1968, Nicaragua in 1990, Yugoslavia in 2000, Afghanistan in 2009, Ukraine in 2014, not to mention Russia in 1996! And how else could the current situation in Ukraine and Venezuela be described, with U.S. representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker openly pressuring Ukrainian voters to support the incumbent ( ), and Washington possibly plotting a coup in Caracas? ( )
7. CLAIM: The lawsuit of the Democratic National Committee against the Russian Federation related to “interference in the election” has a legal standing.
The DNC filed a civil lawsuit on April 20, 2018 against the Russian Federation and other entities and individuals. Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the Russian Federation; the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (GRU); the GRU operative using the pseudonym "Guccifer 2.0"; Aras Iskenerovich Agalarov; Emin Araz Agalarov; Joseph Mifsud; WikiLeaks; Julian Assange; the Trump campaign (formally "Donald J. Trump for President, Inc."); Donald Trump, Jr.; Paul Manafort; Roger Stone; Jared Kushner; George Papadopoulos; Richard W. Gates; and unnamed defendants sued as John Does 1–10. The DNC's complaint accuses the Trump campaign of engaging in a racketeering enterprise in conjunction with Russia and WikiLeaks.
Even irrespective of the fact that there was no “interference” in the first place, the case has no legal standing. Exercise of U.S. jurisdiction over the pending case with respect to the Russian Federation is a violation of the international law, specifically, violation of jurisdictional immunities of the Russian Federation arising from the principle of the sovereign equality of states.
8. CLAIM: Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak was a spy.
In March of 2017 U.S. media began libeling Sergey Kislyak a “top spy and spy-recruiter” ( ) This preposterous claim was based on nothing but his contacts with Trump confidant Senator Jeff Sessions – carrying out work any ambassador would do. Per the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, among core diplomatic functions is ascertaining by all lawful means conditions and developments in the receiving state ( ), and that certainly includes openly meeting leaders of Congress on Capitol Hill. Even former CIA Director John McLaughlin noted that Mr. Kislyak is an experienced diplomat, not a spy. ( ).
9. CLAIM: Russian Embassy retreat in Maryland was an intelligence base
Among the unlawful acts that U.S. administrations undertook was the expropriation of a legal Russian property in Maryland, a summer retreat near the Chesapeake Bay under the pretext it was used for intelligence gathering ( ). But where is the supposed-treasure trove of alleged spy equipment that U.S. authorities reportedly found there? Why not show them publicly to back up the claim? After the expropriation and the claims, not a word – silence.
The retreat, “dacha” as Russians would call it, was bought by the former Soviet Union in 1972. Since then, it was used for recreation, including hosting a children’s summer camp and regularly entertaining American visitors. One of the more popular events was the stop-over during the annual Chesapeake Regatta, completed with an expansive tour of the property. Presumably U.S. intelligence services could have used this for years to inspect the property. Why was nothing ever mentioned before the Obama Administration action?
10. CLAIM: The meeting in Trump Tower in New York on June 9, 2016 between Trump campaign officials and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was to discuss compromising materials that Russian had on Hillary Clinton.
According to testimony provided to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee ( ), Ms. Veselnitskaya focused on explaining the illicit activities of U.S.-British investor Bill Browder, wanted in Russia for crimes, and brought attention to the adverse effects of the so-called “Magnitskiy Act”, adopted by U.S. Congress in 2012 and lobbied for by Browder.
11. CLAIM: Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, met with Russians in Prague to “collude”.
It was reported in American media that the Justice Department special counsel had evidence that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, secretly made a trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign to meet with Russian representatives, a fact also mentioned in the discredited “Steele Dossier” ( ). This was given as further evidence of “collusion”. But Cohen vehemently denied this – under oath. Passport records indicate that he never was in Prague ( ). He was actually on vacation with his son. Given that he publicly turned on his former boss and still denied the fact of ever going to Prague disproves this claim further.
12. CLAIM: Former member of the Trump campaign team Carter Page was a Russian intelligence asset.
According to members of Congress and journalistic investigations, the redacted declassified documents of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC, also called the FISA Court) show that the main source used by U.S. counterintelligence to justify spying on Mr. Page was the fraudulent so-called “Steele Dossier”. ( )
Thus, Mr. Page for obvious reasons was not accused by the team of Robert Mueller of being involved in a “Russian conspiracy”.
13. CLAIM: On August 22, 2018, The Democratic National Committee filed a claim with the FBI, accusing the “Russian hackers” of infiltrating its electoral database.
Several days later members of the Democratic Party admitted that it was a “false alarm”, as it was simply a security check-up performed at the initiative of the Democratic Party’s affiliate in Michigan.
14. CLAIM: On August 8, 2018 U.S. Senator Bill Nelson accused Russia of breaching the infrastructure of the voter registration systems in several local election offices of Florida.
Florida’s Department of State spokesperson, Sarah Revell, stated on August 9, 2018, that Florida’s government had not received any evidence from competent authorities that Florida’s voting systems or election records had been compromised. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI also could not confirm in any manner the accusations. ( )
15. CLAIM: In September, 2017 the U.S. media, referring to the Department of Homeland Security, accused Russia of “cyberattacks” on electoral infrastructure in 21 states during the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections.
On September 27, 2017, Wisconsin and California authorities stated that their electoral systems were not targeted by cyberattacks. On November 12, 2017, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said in a CBS interview that the “hackers’ activity” had no significant consequences and did not influence the outcome of the elections. And, indeed, the source of those attacks was not clear. ( )
16. CLAIM: Russia meddled in the Alabama 2017 Senate elections to help the Republican candidate.
Despite the initial claims ( ), it turned out that a group of Democratic tech experts decided to imitate so-called “Russian tactics” in the fiercely contested Alabama Senate racе. Even more jarring is the fact that one participant in the “Alabama project”, Jonathon Morgan, is chief executive of “New Knowledge”, a cyber security firm that wrote a scathing account of Russia’s social media operations in the 2016 election that was released in 2018 by the Senate Intelligence Committee. ( ). Once again, we have one of the main private sector players in hyping the Russian threat caught red-handed.
17. CLAIM: Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign chairman, was a secret link to Russian intelligence.
Trump’s former campaign chairman was hit with two indictments from Mueller’s office. However, even as American media notes, both cases have nothing to do with Russia and stemmed from his years as a political consultant for the Ukrainian government and his failure to pay taxes on the millions he earned, his failure to report the foreign bank accounts he used to stash that money, and his failure to report his work to the US government. In his second case in Virginia, he was also charged with committing bank fraud to boost his assets when the Ukraine work dried up ( ).
In fact, serious concerns have been raised in the U.S. that it was Ukrainian officials who tried to influence the 2016 elections by leaking compromising materials on Mr. Manafort ( ).
The Ukrainian connection is also prevalent in the case of money transferred to accounts of American politicians. For instance, according to a “New York Times” article, Ukrainian billionaire Viktor Pinchuk donated over 10 million dollars to the “Clinton Foundation while just 150 thousand dollars to the “Trump Foundation” ( ).
18. CLAIM: Russia compromised the Vermont power grid.
On December 31, 2016, “The Washington Post”, accused “Russian hackers” of compromising the Vermont power grid. The local company, “Burlington Electric”, allegedly traced a malware code in a laptop of one of its employees. It was stated that the same “code” was used to hack the Democratic Party servers in 2016. However, the “Wordfence” cybersecurity firm checked “Burlington Electric” for hacking, and said that the malware code was openly available, for instance, on a web-site of Ukrainian hackers. The attackers were using IP-addresses from across the world. “The Washington Post” later admitted that conclusions on Russia’s involvement were false. ( )
19. CLAIM: Russian Alfa Bank was used as a secret communication link with the Trump campaign.
In October 2016 a new “accusation” appeared, alleging that a message exchange between the Alfa Bank server and Trump organizations indicated a «secret» Trump – Russia communication channel. ( )
However, the FBI concluded the supposed messaging was marketing newsletters and/or spam.
20. CLAIM: Russia cracked voter registration systems during the 2016 U.S. elections.
In July 2016 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security accused Russia of gaining unauthorized access to electronic voter registration systems in Arizona. But on April 8, 2018, “Reuters”, referring to a high-ranking U.S. administration official, wrote there was no proof Russia had anything to do with the mentioned cyberattack. ()
21. CLAIM: Russian Embassy bank transactions were linked to “election interference”.
American publication “Buzzfeed” repeatedly claimed that U.S. authorities flagged Russian Embassy financial transfers as suspicious, many of them dated around the 2016 election ( ). In reality, the media outlet, by twisting the facts and placing them out of context, made routine banking transactions – salary transfers, payments to contractors – look nefarious. It is not uncommon for embassy personnel to receive larger payouts, transfer or withdraw larger sums of money at the end of their work ( ). Furthermore, leaking of confidential banking information of persons and organizations protected by diplomatic immunity raised concerns about the likely involvement of security services.
The arrest in October 2018 of a U.S. Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network official ( ), charged with leaking information both about the Russian Embassy accounts and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, provides further proof to the theory of political skullduggery.
To my knowledge most of these responses have not been fully examined or addressed, certainly not by the Mainstream Media, nor, for that matter, by Fox News, dominated as it is by an almost instinctive Russophobia (the one possible exception being Tucker Carlson).
For the American Left, since the collapse of Communism and the growth of a traditionalist nationalism (under Vladimir Putin), Russia has become a convenient target. When the Soviets were in power prior to 1991, the USSR was seen as a “progressive” presence in the world, even if by the requirements of American politics the Left was forced to make ritualistic condemnations of the more extreme elements of Soviet statecraft. Now that post-Communist Russia bans same sex marriage, glorifies the traditional family, and the conservative Russian Orthodox Church occupies a special position of prominence, that admiration has turned to fear and loathing. And that Russia and its president have been viewed as favorable to the hated Donald Trump only confirms that hostility.
For the dominant Neoconservatives and many Republicans, contemporary Russia is seen as “anti-democratic,” “reactionary,” and a threat to American world hegemony (and the refusal to bow to that hegemony, whether economically, politically, or culturally). Indeed, as a major intellectual force, Neoconservatism owes much of its origins to Eastern European and Russian Jews, many of whose ancestors were at direct odds with the old pre-1917 Tsarist state. That animus, those nightmares of pogroms and oppression, have never completely subsided. A modern traditionalist, Orthodox Russia is viewed as antithetical to their more liberal, even Leftwing ideas (e.g., increasing acceptance of same sex marriage, “moderate” feminism, and a whole panoply of “forward looking” views on civil rights issues.) Memory of “the bad old days” has never disappeared.
None of this history should prevent a close examination of the current accusations against Russia, nor our search for the truth.