After Helsinki, there can be little doubt that Donald J. Trump acts more and more like an agent of Russia or heavily beholden to Russian interests.
What else can any objective person conclude after the latest basically pro-Russian and anti-American comments from the president in which he preferred Russia’s denial of interference in the 2016 election to the unanimous conclusion of all U.S. intelligence agencies?
Once again, Trump proves he is woefully unprepared to be president, master of the big lie, and ignorant of history and reality. Here are facts, not “fake news.”
Fact: Twenty-five Russian officials, including 12 Russian spies, have been indicted by the special counsel for that interference. The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee concluded earlier this month that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.
Fact: Russia annexed Crimea and its forces are fighting in Ukraine to undermine a democratically elected government that has preferred to join European institutions. These two acts were the most blatant cases of aggression in Europe since World War II.
Russia was ejected in 2014 from the G-7, the exclusive club of leading democratic countries, for that aggression, though Trump wants to forgive these acts.
Fact: Russian-backed separatist forces shot down a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine in July 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew. Prosecutors in the Netherlands concluded the Russian military was the source of the missile that destroyed the airliner. An American, Quinn Lucas Schansman, a dual-national student from Indiana, was a passenger.
Fact: All American intelligence agencies concluded that Russia used cyberattacks and social media to disrupt the 2016 presidential election that led to Trump’s narrow electoral victory. Russia has conducted similar cyberattacks in western European democracies. Despite warnings from his own Republican intelligence officials of continuing meddling in the once-sacred American election system, Trump has done nothing to protect it from Russian intervention in upcoming voting.
Fact: As president, Trump has tried to block or water down tough sanctions against Russia, passed almost unanimously by Congress, for their intervention in the election. Trump also continues to lavish praise on Vladimir Putin and sharply criticize our closest allies and seek to undermine alliances that have kept the peace for 70 years.
Fact: The annual National Security Strategy describes Russia as a major threat to U.S. interests and values. Yet, Trump repeatedly acts and speaks with disdain for its goals.
Fact: Russian oligarchs have invested millions of dollars in Trump properties since the financial meltdown of 2007, when even Donald Trump Jr. admits they were desperate for cash. Millions more have been shoveled into the coffers of Trump fixer Michael Cohen.
Fact: Many Russian dissidents who have had the courage to speak up and oppose Putin’s autocratic rule have been murdered or arbitrarily jailed, including respected political figures and journalists who were investigating Kremlin misrule and corruption.
One can go on and on with hard facts that place Russia as a serious threat to not only the United States but an international order in which democratic processes, human rights and respect for the rule of law are uppermost. Even Republicans now recognize Trump’s blindness to Russia. Sen. John McCain said on Monday that Trump’s behavior in Helsinki was “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in history,” and Trump “abased himself before a tyrant.”
Trump tried to say he misspoke a day later, reading a prepared statement that resembled a child’s “the dog ate my homework” excuse.
There are legitimate reasons to improve relations with Russia for American, European and global interests.
In addition to its vast nuclear arsenal, one Putin now seeks to strengthen despite no increased threat, Russia holds significant energy reserves.
But Russia’s economic wherewithal needs to be kept in perspective.
Russia’s economy, basically a one-note band that Putin has failed to diversify in two decades of rule, is ranked 13th in the world in terms of gross national product. The state of California’s economy — now the fifth largest in the world — is two times the size of Russia’s.
A new book by Masha Gessen, “The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia,” outlines how average citizens in Russia have had their hopes and dreams crushed by the return of the old Soviet order in the form of a new “and unstoppable mafia state” under Putin.
Perhaps if Trump loves Russia so much, he should resign and move to Moscow. But he might find a tough and jealous competitor — one estimate pegs Putin’s wealth at more than $40 billion.
Frederic B. Hill is a former foreign correspondent for The Baltimore Sun and conducted wargames and conferences on national security issues for the Department of State. He is co-editor of “The Life of Kings: The Baltimore Sun and the Golden Age of the American Newspaper.” He lives in Arrowsic.
Follow BDN Editorial & Opinion on Facebook for the latest opinions on the issues of the day in Maine.