The Republicans are delivering America into Putin's hands | David Klion

Russia has preyed on other nations before, but never one so strong as the United States of America. Trump and his party are helping the process along

At the beginning of the 18th century, Poland was one of the largest states in Europe, a sovereign, multi-ethnic republic. By the end of the century it had vanished from the map, absorbed by the expanding empires of Russia, Prussia and Austria.

Poland was brought down not by invading armies, but by the weaknesses of its political system, which could be paralyzed by a single noble’s veto and thus easily compromised by outside powers offering bribes. By the end, Catherine the Great of Russia had even taken the king of Poland as a lover.

Three centuries have passed, but Poland’s experience carries uncomfortable lessons for the US in 2016.

Last week, Barack Obama ordered the CIA to review evidence that Russia was behind a series of cyber-attacks that compromised Hillary Clinton’s campaign and may have helped Donald Trump win the presidency. There is also a strong consensus that Trump’s businesses and advisers have extensive connections to the Russian government.

In short, the Kremlin appears to have directly interfered with an American election in order to boost a presidential candidate with a Russia-friendly foreign policy.

It shouldn’t be surprising that Vladimir Putin would want to interfere in US politics to advance Russia’s foreign policy goals – from curtailing Nato to ending sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine and preserving Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria. And as many critics of US foreign policy have noted, Washington has its own long history of meddling in foreign elections, including in Russia and its closest neighbors. Maybe the turnabout is fair play.

But what should surprise and disturb all Americans is that our political institutions, and above all the Republican party, are so vulnerable to Russian interference. The Republican party, traditionally associated with a hawkish stance toward Moscow, threw its support behind a presidential candidate who openly called on Russia to hack his opponent’s campaign.

According to CIA sources who spoke anonymously to the Washington Post, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell told Obama and leading Democrats that he would regard any effort to release evidence of Russian interference before the election as partisan. In other words, he put his own party’s interest in electing Trump and gutting the welfare state ahead of the national interest.

Neither he, nor House speaker Paul Ryan, nor any other leading Republican seems the slightest bit apologetic about the Republican party’s all but open alliance with Putin.

Before 2016, it would have been unthinkable that Russia, or any foreign power, could exert this kind of influence on the US political process. That’s because no national politician before Trump would ever have been comfortable aligning so shamelessly with a rival government.

Trump has obliterated this norm, along with so many others, and his party has gone along with him. The Republicans’ contempt for the democratic process and the national interest have created an opening Putin never could have created himself.

Besides the Republican party, America’s weakness can be seen in what appears to be an escalating war between our domestic intelligence agency, the FBI and our foreign intelligence agency, the CIA. The FBI released damaging information about Hillary Clinton shortly before the election, which may have swung the outcome in key states and allowed for the election of Trump on a law and order platform. Meanwhile, the CIA is belatedly undermining Trump by releasing information about his foreign ties. This is not the sign of a healthy democracy.

America’s political system is as broken as that of 18th-century Poland. Our territory may not be under threat, but our ability to govern ourselves without outside interference is. Our antiquated electoral system has yielded a president-elect who is unqualified and temperamentally unstable, and who is openly building a kleptocratic state closely modeled on Putin’s, to whom he arguably owes his victory. Given America’s vast arsenal and international commitments, a government that can be so easily swayed by outside powers represents a danger to the entire world.

In an 1838 speech in Illinois, a young Abraham Lincoln considered how the United States might fall, asking: “Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never!”

Instead, he warned, “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.”

Today, Russia may be a transatlantic giant, but the author and finisher of America’s destruction is weeks away from the White House, with Lincoln’s party firmly behind him.


David Klion

The GuardianTramp

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