Opinion | Muftic: The Russian connection: Why care?
February 20, 2019
While we are waiting for the Mueller Special Counsel report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections to see if the Trump campaign or Donald Trump himself conspired with the Russians, ask ourselves, why should we care?
The Russian connection did not register in the top three issues motivating voters to cast ballots as they did in the 2018 midterms. In NBC exit polls about 50 percent of the voters thought it was important but only 60 percent of Democrats and 20 percent of Republicans approved of Mueller's handling of his probe. Here is why we should care. Russia is at minimum an adversary whose national interests are at odds with U.S. security concerns. The cold war may be over, but Vladimir Putin's agenda has roots in long standing Russian history, if not in the old Communist vs. Capitalist terminology.
Thanks to Mueller's frequently court filed indictments and sentencing documents, it is accepted by most that indeed the Russians did conduct a propaganda campaign to persuade US voters to pull the lever for Trump. There are some recent developments deduced from Mueller's filings charging Trump's campaign Chair Paul Manafort lied about a meeting he and his side kick Rick Gates had with Ukrainian suspected Russian intelligence operative Konstantin Kilimnik in a New York cigar bar Aug. 2, 2016.
Trump campaign's internal polling data, useful for targeting social media messages, was handed over to Kilimnik and a peace plan for Ukraine was discussed that would have resulted in lifting sanctions imposed by the West for Russia's grab of the Crimea and eastern Ukraine.The evidence Mueller's team presented persuaded the judge to agree to revoke Manafort's plea agreement, subjecting him to more jail time.
If this were the Cold War, Manafort's actions could have been considered treason. Much of the Mueller findings presented in court filings involve Ukraine, Crimea and sanctions levied on Russians for their territorial incursions. Manafort was a political consultant to the former president of the Ukraine who was ousted for his pro-Russian policies. Other elements at play are Russia's historical expansionist imperatives:: Crimea, the Baltics, and Balkans are centuries old keystones to Russian national desires for access to warm water ports for their otherwise ice locked military and trade vessels, keeping former Satellites as buffers against Western invasions (they were invaded by both the Nazis and Napoleon), and their objections of placing NATO troops and intercontinental ballistic missiles at their skirts. Putin publicly believes that the breakup of the Soviet Union was a Russian tragedy with the loss of the USSR satellites that provided ports and buffers. None of this is in US or our allies' national security and military interests defending against such expansionism.
Manafort's joining the Trump campaign in early 2016 was simultaneous with Trump's fleshing out the details of Trump's pro-Russia foreign policy., lifting sanctions against Russia, reducing and weakening NATO to cripple it as a deterrent to Russian desires to control the Baltics and the Balkans, including Montenegro.
Trump has uttered so many words of praise for Vladimir Putin, observers had termed it a "bromance" and attributed it to Trump's long-time interest in building of Trump Tower Moscow. Trump Inc. was in negotiations for the Tower well into 2016.
Even since his election, Donald Trump has held secret meetings with Putin, and sometimes echoes Putin's public talking points word for word, preferring reports from Russian intelligence over his own agencies. Trump recently lifted sanctions against a powerful Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, a friend of Putin, and he pulled the US out of the IMF (intercontinental ballistic arms control treaty), instead of strengthening it, permitting Russia without oversight or penalty to continue to develop their mid-range ballistic missiles. He has made public efforts to pull out or defang NATO, but so far, he has made little headway. For more, visit http://www.mufticforumblog.blogspot.com.