Nothing screams “unhinged” more than the behavior of Hillary voters since the shocking electoral victory of Donald Trump this past November. If ever there was an example of a nation full of people stuck at the first stage of grief, this is it. Coming to terms with the concept that the American people rejected their ideas and that they ran a lousy candidate is apparently a bridge too far for their fragile psyches. This explains the never ending search for an excuse that will allow them to continue to live in a world of denial for awhile longer.
The current meme du jour is that Vladimir Putin rigged the election in favor of Donald Trump. According to this latest attempt at spinning history, the Russians interfered in the election by hacking and then releasing the DNC and Podesta emails in order that Donald Trump would become President. Therefore, Trump’s Presidency is illegitimate because it was stolen for him by a foreign power.
What proof has been offered that indicates Putin was motivated to do this? None, to be exact. So far proponents of this theory have produced not a single jot of hard evidence that categorically confirms any direct involvement by Putin in the election and absolutely nothing that indicates his motivation. Yet, this story has been the talk of the media for weeks now even though scant evidence has been offered that would enlighten the people as to its validity. However, the coverage has been very effective in accomplishing its intended job of fanning the fires of Democrat anger and rage. While idle conjecture and wishful thinking may now be passed off as newsworthy under current standards of journalism, the American people deserve better.
Given the seriousness of the charge, citizens have a right to know whether the claims of Russian interference are credible enough to merit the recent change in American foreign policy Obama recently initiated before he left office. But, despite hours and hours of coverage and thousands of words written on the subject no one has yet presented any concrete evidence to indicate why a Trump presidency would have been so preferable to Russian interests that Putin would actively and openly interfere in our election on his behalf.
The lack of any credible substantiation of this unlikely conspiracy theory speaks volumes on its credibility. Indeed, a much more logical argument can be made that it would have been foolish for Putin to do something so brazen when the outcome of the election was less than certain. Would the spymaster from the KGB really have thought that the piddling revelations in the Wikileaks emails would be enough to turn the tide of the election? With Hillary so heavily favored to win by virtually everyone and far ahead in the polls for most of the election, how would it have benefited Putin to have his fingerprints all over a direct attack on the incoming president? Was there not a huge, perhaps unacceptable, risk that Hillary would respond in kind towards those responsible for this attempt to deny her victory? To have gambled on the Wikileaks and DNC emails in this way, in favor of a candidate everyone thought would surely lose, doesn’t seem like the kind of move that is consistent with Putin’s reputation as a cunning geopolitical strategist.
Another possible explanation for Russian involvement made by some in the US intelligence agencies, points out that a gambit of this nature fits more closely with historical Russian patterns of fomenting general mischief going back to the days of the Cold War. There is some logic to the argument that the Kremlin saw the Wikileaks emails as a vehicle in which to weaken whoever emerged as the winner of the election. If Hillary won, she’d be damaged by the revelations of the emails. If Trump won, useful idiots and partisans on the losing side might use Russia’s role in the election to try to delegitimize his presidency. Thus, whichever candidate the leaks helped would still be damaged by them. Either way confidence in the electoral system in the United States would be undermined. The outcome would be a total win/win for Moscow.
While these explanations may have the ring of truth to them, the fact is that any explanation for whatever Putin did or did not do is based on mere speculation. Unfortunately, no matter how many Congressional committees investigate, we will never know what really happened. To suggest otherwise is to surrender any pretense of intellectual honesty. Of course, not having any evidence to back up their confirmation bias hasn’t stopped Democrats and their enablers in the media from continually making the grave accusation that Putin chose to actively favor Trump. On the contrary, the anti-Trump camp have been engaging in full fledged spin mode to convince themselves and the public that this conjecture is fact. Such a serious charge may make sense to hysterical left wingers, but does it stand the calm scrutiny and intellectual rigor of a less partisan and emotional analysis?
In evaluating whether there is any cause to believe that Vladimir Putin would have had reason to favor Trump over Clinton, it is critical to study the history of the Russian leader and his long stated geopolitical objectives. Putin’s recent moves on the world stage show a tendency to act provocatively and to prod for weakness in order to exploit advantage where he can. His previous statements, aggressive action in Crimea and Ukraine plus his confrontational posture towards the Baltic States indicate that he is proceeding apace with his vision of reuniting the wayward former Soviet Republics with Mother Russia once again.
As Putin pondered which American presidential candidate would best serve Russian interests, he surely would have found it highly instructive to consider the general proclivities of the two American political parties and the way they have historically responded to confrontation and war. Over the past eight years, Putin has been able to learn firsthand how Democrats in leadership positions in the United States have behaved in such situations. Indeed, what must have been clear to him, after the Syrian Red Line fiasco, is that Barack Obama and his party have no stomach for a fight.
When Obama lost his nerve and punted the decision to respond militarily to Assad’s use of chemical weapons over to Congress, his party abandoned their own President and his call for the use of force to respond to this human rights violation. At that point, the American president was left with no choice but to capitulate and turn to Russia to save the day. Imagine what a man like Putin thought of that kind of weakness.
Putin saw the Democrats fecklessness and reached a solid conclusion. If the United States was not going to fight, or even threaten to fight, over the provocations of a weak country like Syria, there was no perceived consequence to prevent him from fulfilling his dreams of territorial expansion. Thus, Putin believed, he was free to make his subsequent moves on Crimea and the Ukraine.
The lessons of the “red line” episode for a KGB trained strategic thinker is clear. For an American president to thwart his aspirations by directly moving to confront his provocations, he/she would need to have the support of their own political base. Would Putin have believed that Hillary was capable of getting her overwhelmingly pacifist party to back her against further Russian aggression in Ukraine or the Baltic countries? Would he have believed that Hillary was going to break decisively against the Obama appeasement policy which she had been instrumental in advocating as Secretary of State? Was it likely she would be willing to go against the entirety of her own party in doing so?
Donald J. Trump, on the other hand, is from a party known historically to be far more hawkish than the Democrats. Worse, from the point of view of a grand strategist, while Hillary is a known quantity who has been on the international stage for years, there is no question that the new President is a wild card. Numerous events during the campaign indicated that if someone chose to confront Trump or cross his lines, he would strike back. Indeed, Trump has often shown himself to be mercurial and unpredictable. In other words, Donald Trump represents a risk to Vladimir Putin that is unknown and, perhaps, unknowable.
Is it likely that, after careful consideration, Putin wanted Trump to be President over the staid and predictable Clinton and her spineless Democrat party? While it is certainly possible, it does not fit in with the consensus view of the Russian dictator as a clever chess player in international affairs. More importantly, given his geopolitical aims, siding with the unpredictable Trump just doesn’t make a lot of strategic sense for him.
From day one of his candidacy, Trump has proposed a massive effort to rebuild the US military. On the other hand, an increase in defense spending of this magnitude was never a part of Hillary’s stated or proposed policy. Nor was it on the radar of the Congressional leadership of her party. A closer look at Putin’s decision to invest heavily in building up his own military makes it evident that he has been attempting to capitalize President Obama’s policies which has caused the steady decline in the US military force structure. With the United States and the NATO allies intent on emasculating their fighting forces with budget cuts, Putin’s increase in Russian war making capabilities makes a lot of geopolitical sense. If current NATO defense policies continue, growing the Russian armed forces will make them the preeminent military power on the European continent once again. This change in the force equation could give Putin the ability to use intimidation and fear as an effective deterrent against individual NATO nations. The threat of a dominant Russian military might make them think twice about choosing to interfere with his plans to pursue his dream of reestablishing the borders of the old Soviet Empire.
Knowing this, how is it logical to believe that Putin would want to tilt the election against Hillary when it was clear that she would continue to pursue the defense policies of her predecessor? Why would Russia choose to support Trump when his general posture on military and defense matters are directly counter to the goals of Russian hegemony? Clearly, a Hillary victory would seem to be the more favorable outcome for Putin’s chosen strategy. President Trump’s recent comments on nuclear weapons during the transition highlight this conclusion.
While everyone over at the fake news networks were having a cow over Trump’s statements about the possibility of a new nuclear arms race, the soon to be Commander in Chief was sending a message to Putin. In essence, Trump basically dared Putin to make the same mistake his Soviet predecessors did when Reagan called their nuclear bluff in the Eighties. Trump threw out the gauntlet to Putin. If he and his Third World economy want to get into an arms race with the United States: Bring it on! That is certainly not the kind of statement or policy position Hillary would make. Yet, the left wants us to believe Putin preferred Trump to her?
Worse for the Kremlin, Trump, like Reagan, is pushing for massive tax cuts and regulatory reforms that have historically boosted economic growth. These economic policies favored by the new president hold out the possibility that America will once again be the undisputed economic superpower on the world scene. That outcome will only make America more dominant in international affairs, more able to spend on defense and less likely to be viewed as a nation in decline.
Once again, this is contrary to Putin’s objectives. Under Obama, the United States has been seen by other world leaders as a fading power in retreat from the world stage. Seizing this opportunity, Putin has greedily rushed in to fill the vacuum. Therefore, it is very much in his strategic interest for America to be seen as weak economically and militarily.
If Trump restores America’s economic might and increases its military power, that will have a huge impact in assuring the Europeans and other nations of the world that the United States is an indispensable economic and military partner. Had Hillary been elected, Putin would have likely assumed that the US would have followed the same failed Obama/Democrat economic and foreign policies giving him even more openings to exploit. Which of the two outcomes would Putin have been more likely to want to occur?
Many on the left counter this argument by suggesting that the Kremlin would have preferred Trump over Hillary because of his comments during the campaign directed at the NATO alliance. Certainly, all the hysterics in the legacy media, plus a lot of conservatives who should have known better, were wetting the bed over this for days on end. However, a closer analysis of Trump’s comments reveals that his main complaint with our allies is that he believes they are taking advantage of us by refusing to spend the amount on defense specified by the NATO accord. In other words, he has been pushing for a stronger alliance with greater shared responsibility and an increased military presence, not a weaker one.
The fact that Trump nominated known NATO supporter Mad Dog Mattis to be his Secretary of defense only seems to confirm that this has been his goal all along. A careful vetting of his comments on trade and foreign policy reveals a leader who won’t tolerate the US being taken advantage of by the rest of the world. Not in our trade policies and not in our alliances. If events proceed as Trump has been indicating is his desire, the resulting increase in European military potential is definitely not something Russia would see as a positive development.
While each one of these geopolitical considerations are valid reasons to dismiss the idea that Putin wanted to see Trump elected over Hillary, the importance of oil and natural gas to Russia is by far the biggest factor that casts doubt on this theory. Fossil fuels are the very lifeblood of the Russian economy. Other than caviar, nuclear power technology, weapons and vodka there really isn’t anything that Russia makes or can sell that anyone wants to buy. A new Russian ZiL automobile anyone? Anyone?
Thus, the price of oil is paramount for the success of Putin’s strategies. He is well aware that his economy is precariously dependent on it for revenue. And what has been Trump’s stated policy from the very beginning of his candidacy? Drill Baby Drill! The new president plans to open up federal land and promote oil exploration everywhere in the US with the stated goal of making America energy independent. Given the massive new US reserves of oil and natural gas due to revolutionary fracking techniques, all of that new drilling will put severe pressure on markets towards a lowering of the price of a barrel of oil. Or, at a minimum, maintain it at levels far below what the man from the Kremlin would prefer.
In addition, unlike Obama and Clinton, Trump has long advocated plans to open up the Keystone Pipeline and is seen as likely to lower regulations hindering and restricting the export of Liquid Natural Gas by US producers. That will put additional price pressures on Putin’s own gas sales to Europe and threaten his stranglehold on their supplies. Throughout the campaign, Trump has been constantly touting these energy policies as part of his plan to “make America great again”. As a result, Putin surely knows the new president means business. On the other hand, Hillary and her party have shown a great reluctance to increase American energy production. On this critical issue vital to Russian interests, why would Putin want to place a bet on the candidate whose stated positions pose the most threat to his economic well being?
If your assessment of Vladimir Putin is that he is a clever and thoughtful strategist, it is hard to reconcile how he could have ever imagined that a Trump administration which threatens his oil profits, breaks his choke-hold on European natural gas, neuters his military buildup through increases in US and European defense spending and that results in the return of the United States as an economic colossus would be a desired outcome.
To believe the meme the Democrats and their media shills are selling, one has to buy the idea that Putin is a lousy chess player who makes decisions that are in direct conflict with Russian strategic interests. Given the way Putin has reintroduced Russian presence onto the Middle Eastern scene and how he has successfully gotten away with annexing Crimea and parts of Ukraine, that isn’t an argument that seems very credible. Therefore, to continue to push the idea that Putin interfered in our election to help Trump shows more a desire to find an excuse for a humiliating electoral defeat than the result of a solid analysis of geopolitical realities.
That said, there are still two other dubious explanations that have been put forth to explain why Putin may have decided to gamble on having his fingerprints all over involvement in the American election to favor Trump. One is that he is still furious at Clinton over her remarks intended to delegitimize his own election. There is no question that Putin is definitely vainglorious enough to hold a grudge and pursue a vendetta against Hillary. Given his history, this explanation is not totally outside the bounds of what Putin is known to be capable of. However, it’s a stretch to believe that this ex-KGB spy runs his foreign policy based upon personal revenge.
The final premise being floated around is that Trump and Putin have been in cahoots and plotted this together in exchange for future concessions mutually beneficial to both. To hold this belief, you have to somehow posit that Trump became a traitor to his country in return for a bunch of emails that contained not a single smoking gun guaranteed to turn the election. Sure, these emails showed that the Democrats and the Press are corrupt through and through. But, everybody already knows that, right? There isn’t a thing revealed by Wikileaks that is a great surprise to anyone. In fact, this lack of news value gave the pro-Hillary media the excuse to ignore the story for the most part. To posit that Donald Trump sold out his country for what was exposed by WikiLeaks is really stretching credulity. Only a true conspiracy nut would find it plausible to imagine that Mr. Art of the Deal would make such a bad bargain.
In the final analysis, the only theory of Russian involvement that holds up to even the lightest analytical scrutiny is the one that posits that by releasing the hacked Wikileaks emails, Putin would be able to create general mischief and call into question the legitimacy of the entire American political system. With the aid and assistance of Democrats and their stenographers in the press, he seems well on his way to doing just that. Congratulations guys! Way to give the world the perfect case study as to what useful idiots are!