Many progressives have long thought what the revelations of the last week are starting to reveal: Trump is deeply compromised by Russian President Vladimir Putin and is acting at his behest. The befuddling embrace of an American leader of a Russian dictator should give any casual student of American history great pause. Over the last week we learned much to confirm our suspicions:
- The FBI suspected foul play after the Comey firing and opened a counter-intelligence operation to determine what the hell was going on. Others knowledgable have suggested there had to be other classified information other than what made into the NY Times. They reported that the justification for the investigation was Trump claiming the Comey firing rationale was in part the Russia investigation. The FBI investigation was handed over to Bob Mueller when he was appointed Special Counsel
- Through a mistake in a filing by Manafort's lawyers, they revealed some degree of sharing of information with Russia when Manafort was Trump campaign chair.
- Carl Bernstein, of Watergate sleuth fame, is reporting today that Mueller's final report will say that Trump helped Putin destabilize the United States. If this is indeed in his report, this is an astounding accusation. If he has the evidence to back up the claim, how is anything less than a treason charge appropriate?
Assuming there is treason charge related to Putin using Trump to undermine the American political process and potentially undermine alliances such as NATO, what is the appropriate progressive response to Putin? Thus far, I have seen tepid response from most progressives as Putin has continued to be a bad actor in the world.
Indeed, in some progressives circles, there is even seeming support for Putin. Jill Stein infamously ended up going to Russia sitting at the same table with Michael Flynn at the Russian news channel (RT) event. The disgraced former general and Jill Stein dined with Vladimir Putin. Stein says there was no direct contact with Putin which is fine, but why are you there in the first place at banquet for Russian state media? There really is no excuse for this behavior. None. Rather than hanging out with Putin or his state-sponsored media or looking the other way as he invades the Ukraine, we ought to offer our full-throated opposition to Putin, even if we sound like Cold War warrior Republicans.
Why? Putin thinks like a 19th European power in which land and sphere of influence matter most in a never ending battle for supremacy amongst world powers. This framing of the world is diametrically opposed to a progressive global worldview of multilateralism, respect for the sovereignty of all nations, and the human rights of their people therein. As evidenced by the military interventions in Syria, the Crimea, or in eastern Ukraine, Putin is reasserting Russia as a bad actor in the world. Furthermore, he is undermining democracies at their core by attacking the democratic processes of elections and the the free exchange of ideas. He is attempt to shift the scales of democracies towards Russia through using these tactics to support right wing candidates sympathetic to Russia or those compromised by Russia. Trump was the big get as the US is a long-time adversary.
Progressives should accept that we have a problem globally with the Russian dictator at the helm. We should support sanctions and speak out against this threat to democratic governments the world over. Assuming we rid ourselves of Trump by 2020, we will have a lot to fix at home, but the incoming progressive President will have to deal with Putin squarely. That newly elected President ought to have our full support. Ahead of a change in US foreign policy, we should be organizing support now for sanctions and other diplomatic actions that make this case to Putin and protect elections and free political discourse the world over.