Saturday, December 31, 2016

Hold Your Applause for Putin

President Obama has retaliated against Russia for becoming an actor in our election campaign. I'm not so sure we should applaud Russia's "restraint" as much as we should be wary.

I'm willing to wait and see if President Trump will "speak nicely but carry a big stick" in regard to Russia, so I won't react so early on to President-elect Trump's praise of Putin in the election imbroglio:

Moscow is hoping Donald Trump will reconsider the sanctions the U.S. is levying in response to its finding of election hacking, a wait-and-see strategy bolstered by the American president-elect's own approving words for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin has essentially put relations with the U.S. on hold until Trump replaces President Barack Obama on Jan. 20. Though his foreign minister encouraged him to slap back at Washington for the sanctions imposed by Obama, Putin decided that Russia wouldn't immediately retaliate.

"Great move on delay (by V. Putin)," Trump wrote Friday on Twitter. "I always knew he was very smart!"

One, there was no "hacking" of our election. The election computers across the country seem to have been just fine. Russia tried to hurt Hillary Clinton, no doubt. But I think the most likely explanation is that Russia wanted a damaged Hillary Clinton as president (remember her private poorly secured server while she was Secretary of State? Yeah, Russia no doubt has those deleted "personal" emails that Clinton did not turn over to American officials after hiding and stalling compliance after her illegal action) rather than a President Trump. The Russians could read our polls as well as we could. Nor do I think the Russians are so ham-fisted as to be so obvious in doing things to help Trump if they really wanted Trump in office.

Not that we should ignore Russian interference. We should resist any such interference. Especially from the Russians, who are--to use a technical term--bastards with a heaping dollop of paranoia to make them oh so pleasant.

Two, Russia probably is smart to hold back to see what Trump will do. Although I reject the notion that Russia would be "retaliating" given that our action was the retaliation for Russia's actions.

I personally hope that the weight of evidence about what Russia is doing across a whole range of actions hostile to America will prevent Putin ego stroking by Trump from keeping us from stopping Russia.

But what I really get annoyed about is the notion that Russia is being all warm and cuddly to reject efforts to expel American diplomats from Russia in response.

Really, the way Russia abuses our diplomats in their low-level war on our State Department, I assume Russia just wants to keep more targets conveniently nearby (quoting the Washington Post):

Russian intelligence and security services have been waging a campaign of harassment and intimidation against U.S. diplomats, embassy staff and their families in Moscow and several other European capitals that has rattled ambassadors and prompted Secretary of State John F. Kerry to ask Vladimir Putin to put a stop to it. ...

There was a debate inside the Obama administration about how to respond, and ultimately President Obama made the decision not to respond with similar measures against Russian diplomats, [former ambassador to Russia Michael] McFaul said.

Keep in mind that acting against Russian diplomats now is in retaliation not for the outrageous pattern of attacks on our diplomats, but done after the Russians are alleged to have hurt Hillary Clinton and President Obama's legacy.

And again, I think Russia went after Hillary--but it was to hurt Hillary, and there is no evidence that Russia's efforts actually affected the vote.

But the newly forged Cold War Warrior Democrats seem to believe Russia threw the election to Trump, so the president's newly gung ho attitude to go toe-to-toe with the Russkies has nothing to do with protecting our diplomats who have suffered in the service of our country.