Former U.S. ambassadors to Russia and foreign service diplomats are warning the media and Democrats that generating hysteria over Russia is harming U.S. interests.
Controversy surrounding Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, who reportedly met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions while Sessions was a senator, is a “witch hunt,” said one former U.S. diplomat to Russia.
Countless reports have since surfaced — many colored by dark insinuations of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign, as well as the alleged Russian hacking campaign in the 2016 election — of Kislyak attending the Republican National Convention, a foreign policy speech Trump gave in Washington last April and even the president’s address to a joint-session of Congress.
Democrats have seized on the reports, claiming they’re evidence of the Trump administration’s close ties to Moscow. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) unveiled a website this week entitled “Connecting the Trump-Russia dots,” with Kislyak’s portrait squarely in the middle.
A CNN report alleged that “current and former US intelligence officials have described Kislyak as a top spy and recruiter of spies.”
“That’s total horseshit,” said Wayne Merry, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council who worked as a U.S. diplomat to Russia and has known Kislyak for decades. “It’s a witch-hunt with paranoia and hysteria at its core. Normally it’s the Russians who become paranoid and hysterical. That the conspiracy theories and paranoia is coming from Americans makes me very uncomfortable.”
The past two U.S. ambassadors to Russia defended Kislyak in interviews with The Hill: Michael McFaul a fierce Trump critic who was appointed by former President Obama, and John Beyrle, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush but served for three years under Obama.
Both former ambassadors tell The Hill that the Russian ambassador was merely doing his job and that there is no evidence of any illicit collusion between him and the Trump campaign.
McFaul and Beyrle say they are extremely troubled by evidence that suggests the Russians interfered in the U.S. election. They support an independent investigation into the matter.
But allegations and insinuations that Kislyak was the point person for this — and that it could have played out in broad daylight at meetings on Capitol Hill or at Trump campaign events — are preposterous, they say.
“Kislyak’s job is to meet with government officials and campaign people and I think he’s good at his job,” said McFaul. “People should meet with the Russian ambassador and it’s wrong to criminalize that or discourage it. I want the Russian government to be as informed as possible about the American political process. When I was ambassador, it was frustrating how poorly informed the Russian government was. It’s a good thing to meet with him, not a bad thing.”
The thrust of all this Russia hysteria is the unspoken, but plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face charge that the president of the United States is a traitor. To make that accusation without any evidence whatsoever is absurd and defies logic. But logic and stories about Russian collusion with the Trump campaign don’t mix.
The media and Democrats are trying to create an illusion of inevitability to any investigation about Russian hackers and Republicans. Sooner or later, so they hint, they are going to find the unicorn in that pile of manure. Do they really believe it? It hardly matters. They have combined anti-Russian hysteria with anti-Trump hatred, which has created efforts to “connect the dots” — even though they have only imagined dots to do the connecting.
This scorched earth policy when it comes to opposing the president will eventually come back to haunt the Democrats when their insinuations and smears never pan out.