Our Russian Affair

Once again it seems that the media has chosen to downplay a really important and dangerous issue, i.e. the risks of our current love affair with Vladimir Putin.

The scariest thing about it is that despite the seriousness of Russian efforts to influence the election, the articles treat Putin’s objectives as something obvious that we understand–he didn’t like Clinton and thought it would be easier to work with a businessman like Trump.  All of that is just supposition.  In fact, the single most important thing to know is the extent of Trump’s business dealing with Russia, and that issue unaccountably appears to be dead.   The actual bottom line for the Russian affair is that there is NO real understanding of Putin’s objectives OR the leverage he has to achieve them.

I keep thinking of a passage from the old Jack London novel White Fang.  It is about two wolves, one a beautiful young specimen and the other an old damaged cagey one.  They cooperate to get rid of a common adversary.  When they’re done, the young one relaxes and licks his wounds.  His ally, however, immediately kills him.

The US can choose to cooperate with Russia, so that the two can rule the world without challenge—but there is no reason to believe that cooperation is Putin’s endgame.  The combination of Putin’s geopolitical ambitions with the poor Russian economic situation certainly seems to argue for more.  The transition from ally to cut-throat adversary can occur at any moment, and the threat posed by Russia is real.  The other part of the metaphor worth remembering is that neither strength nor beauty mattered in the end.

We’ve had two recent examples of Putin’s ruthlessness:

– The Syrian truce–which was never more than a opportunity to move troops into position for attack.

– The Olympics–which proved that Russia was willing to stomp on the most basic standards of conduct even for a relatively minor goal.

We have an incoming President who refuses to divulge his business relations with Russia even after the Russian hacking of the election.  Further, the example of Russian hacking during election shows that the Russians are in fact an active danger—the scope of which is certainly not fully known.  That is, of course, only one example of what Putin might have in mind.

So Putin has some deliberately-hidden degree of leverage on US policy, and the Russians are an active threat.  A buddy-buddy relationship is going to make that worse, and there’s not an awful lot of indication that anyone is even going to be careful.

Which means there’s a better example to keep in mind—the Trojan horse.

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