Faster, Please!

Why Are the Democrats and the Spooks Suddenly so Ferociously Anti-Putin?

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, on Capitol Hill on Feb. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

During Soviet years—the 1980s– I was labeled “an enemy of the Soviet people” in a leading Russian magazine, and it became a badge of honor. I received it because of the work I did exposing Soviet lies, repression, and subversion, and because of the support for anti-Kremlin dissidents I helped organize. So I’m familiar with Russian deceits. And everyone else’s, for that matter. It’s an integral part of diplomacy and also of intelligence services’ routine. They deceive both their friends and enemies.

So I am not the least upset when Trump’s critics assail him for being soft on the Russian dictator, nor do I doubt Russian efforts to manipulate American politics. But I am not prepared to take seriously such criticism from people who for years lambasted those of us who advocated a tougher line on the Kremlin. Nor from the likes of Representative Adam Schiff, who falsely accused General Mike Flynn of kissing up to Putin, when Flynn had called Putin “an enemy” in print.

The Helsinki summit was an effort to revive détente. No one should be surprised, since Trump and Henry Kissinger have been friends for a long time, and no doubt have often discussed the possibility of a deal with Putin, with whom Kissinger has met multiple times. Do Trump’s critics oppose an effort to revive détente? If so, they are in direct conflict with the leaders of the EU and NATO, who favor better relations with the Kremlin. If it’s wrong for Trump to try to revive détente, isn’t it equally wrong for Merkel and Mogherini to promote it?

The anti-Trump-and-Russia crusade represents a fundamental change in Democratic Party foreign policy. Roger Simon has aptly termed it a political sex change transformation, since the Democrats have long called for closer cooperation with Moscow. Indeed, during the Reagan years, Senator Ted Kennedy, the de facto head of the Democratic establishment, secretly approached Soviet dictator Yuri Andropov to take an active role in American politics. Paul Kengor tells us

According to (KGB chief) Chebrikov, Kennedy suggested a number of PR moves to help the Soviets in terms of their public image with the American public. He reportedly believed that the Soviet problem was a communication problem, resulting from an inability to counter Reagan’s (not the USSR’s) “propaganda.” If only Americans could get through Reagan’s smokescreen and hear the Soviets’ peaceful intentions.

So, there was a plan, or at least a suggested plan, to hook up Andropov and other senior apparatchiks with the American media, where they could better present their message and make their case. Specifically, the names of Walter Cronkite and Barbara Walters are mentioned in the document. Also, Kennedy himself would travel to Moscow to meet with the dictator…

As recently as the Obama-Romney debates, the Democratic candidate ridiculed the notion that Russia was America’s prime global enemy. The intelligence community notoriously understated the Soviet threat, as demonstrated by the Team B exercise, which demonstrated a far greater military threat, and more aggressive anti-American intentions, than official estimates had indicated. The IC supported a more benign interpretation of Soviet intentions. Today, it is astonishing to see former CIA director Brennan calling the president a traitor for failing to challenge Putin in Helsinki.

Why are the Democrats and the spooks suddenly so ferociously anti-Putin?  What can account for such an enormous sea change?

It’s a hard question to answer, because we do not know if it is based on new intelligence, or if it is primarily motivated by politics. So far as we know, there is considerable information tying Democrats to the Russians, and relatively less showing Russian links to Republicans, including the Trump crowd. We can document substantial Russian and Russia-linked involvement with the Clinton Foundation, some of it directly linked to U.S. policy decisions such as the one giving Russia effective control over the U.S. company Uranium One. We know that Bill Clinton received a huge payday for a speech in Moscow, orders of magnitude greater than what General Flynn was paid. Yet there is virtually unanimous Democratic condemnation of Trump’s failure to denounce Russian “meddling” in our politics, claiming it was in support for Trump.

It seems to me that the Democrats are accusing Trump of doing what they actually did.