My relatives in Ukraine live in a perpetual state of fear of war with Russia, a country that has oppressed Jews, Ukrainians, and defenders of freedom alike for centuries.
I am a Ukrainian-Jewish-American. My relatives in Ukraine live in a perpetual state of fear of war with Russia, a country that has oppressed Jews, Ukrainians, and defenders of freedom alike for centuries. And yet even I am sick and tired of hearing about President Trump’s ties with Russia.
We have been inundated with stories, blown far out of proportion, about Russia’s alleged election hacking or its secret meetings with the President’s closest advisors. President Trump is no stranger to controversy—the only difference being that this smear effort, aside from being entirely fabricated, is also being perpetual by Republicans and Democrats alike. Unsurprisingly, the only bipartisan effort in Congress in decades is making our country, and the rest of the planet, less prosperous and safe.
Did the Russians attempt to influence the U.S. election? Probably — by helping WikiLeaks release actual incriminating emails from the Clinton campaign days before the election, similar to how NBC released a lude video of Trump that they had been sitting on for years. While Democrats were furious over Clinton’s leaked emails, they seem all too ecstatic to capitalize on every single leak coming out of the White House, even those which undermine the presidency and the U.S.’s trustworthiness worldwide.
In fact, if my memory serves me well, only four years ago the Democrats were bashing Mitt Romney mercilessly for harboring “a backwards Cold War philosophy.” Today, Democrat leaders are nearly quoting Romney, verbatim, if not being more antagonistic toward the nuclear power. But that kind of partisan hypocrisy is to be expected from a party without a leader, a message, or a comprehensive plan to take back power.
On the other side of the aisle, the “maverick” John McCain and his neocon goons have set U.S. foreign policy back decades by voting, 97-0, to leash his own party’s President of the ability to use sanctions on Russia as leverage in negotiations.
This unprecedented blow has been fueled to the ever-growing list of Trump cabinet members, associates, and even his own son, who have had been reported as having private meetings with Russian government “affiliates.” Other than generating revenue for media outlets, what sinister ends could such meetings possibly accomplish? A comprehensive strategy on battling global terrorism? An increase in trade with a largely untapped market in Russia? How ghastly!
There is a legitimate argument to be made that negotiations, such as the ones the Trump team attempted to hold with Russia, must be more transparent to prevent an abuse of power on our side. However, with the taboo against Russia being fomented by the sore-loser Democrats and poster-child-for-term-limits John McCain, genuine, open discussion is made difficult if not impossible.
Secondly, there is legitimacy to the call to hold Russia accountable for its “election meddling,” for its attempts at shady communications with people in power, and for a plethora of human rights violations. Without a doubt, the Russian government is a middle-eastern style dictatorship, headed by one man’s cult of personality, and governed through torture, fear, and repression. Any attempt to bring “democracy” to the Russian state, however, begs the question of what would come to replace it. The foreign policy of the past decades has been wrought with failed attempts at “spreading” Western values- the Taliban in Afghanistan and ISIS in Iraq and Libya aren’t quite upstanding Western citizens.
Moreover, unlike Gadhafi or Hussein, Putin does not espouse any violent religious/ethnic ideology or harbors an explicit mandate against the West. Rather, he is KGB strong man attempting to hold a nation of high ethnic tensions and income inequality together through sheer force. Not to mention, unlike Saddam and Gadhafi, Putin also holds the second largest nuclear arsenal in the world.
Even in our wishful thinking, if we could somehow topple Putin without initiating the destruction of the world, what would come to replace him? Hundreds of independent republics some of which would join China, another geopolitical enemy of ours, while others, like Chechnya, would become a breeding ground for Islamic terrorism? Russia, like the other Middle Eastern dictators whom we have toppled, is a global stabilizer. In fact, they share our commitment to combatting terrorism and nuclear proliferation, two far greater existential threats to the U.S. than Putin’s amassed wealth.
Unlike our own President, Putin is a very deliberate, practical leader, who can always be counted on to do whatever solidifies his grip on power. When we enact punitive sanctions, Russia pushes back with a visceral anti-West propaganda machine. The downtrodden people of the region become desperate and hungry, and the majorities grow to blame us for their woes. My family and I have experienced, first-hand, the danger that a desperate Russia poses. Let history, rather than partisan bickering, serve as our guide. Russophobia will not bring democracy, or stability, to the world — it will only aggravate all the problems that the likes of John McCain have helped create.
Collaboration and cooperation with Russia—preferably open collaboration, if the U.S. media and political establishment ever allow for it—can realize shared goals like combatting global terrorism, and perhaps, over time, usher the Russian people into the fold of western democracy. Either that, or the partisan recklessness of Democrats and Republicans alike will cause the U.S. to spiral into the same disastrous economy and rampant terrorism that created the totalitarian Russia of today.