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Saving Russia Policy From Trump

My latest column in The Week [1] calls on realists and others in the foreign policy community who favor a less-confrontational policy towards Russia to lead the charge in calling for a congressional investigation into possible Russian interference in the Presidential campaign and the even more speculative possibility of collusion by the Trump campaign:

The Trump administration might not want such an investigation, though, for reasons having nothing to do with the substance of any discussions with Russian officials. Investigations inevitably metastasize, and draw attention away from an administration’s substantive agenda. In today’s hyper-partisan climate, it’s even more likely that a GOP-led investigation that came up empty would simply be dismissed as part of a coverup.

Individual members of Congress, meanwhile, might support or oppose an investigation for reasons that have nothing to do with the substance of the issue. Opponents of rapprochement with Russia, for example, would have every reason to want to make continued pursuit of such a policy politically toxic.

Which is precisely why it is supporters of such a policy who should be taking the lead in calling for such an investigation.

The Trump administration could stonewall its way through this ongoing scandal, counting on rank partisanship to carry it through the worst. If there were genuinely no crimes committed, such a strategy might even succeed when and if Congress changes hands, and in the meantime the GOP have two years to pass their legislative agenda.

But until the air is clear, American policy towards Russia is badly tainted. Every move this administration makes is being interpreted through the lens of the most outlandish suppositions. In such a climate, the rational thing for the administration to do is abandon any plans for substantive improvement of relations. The Russian government is reportedly [2] already operating on the assumption that Trump will not prove as friendly as hoped, both because of his own personal deficiencies and because of the widening impact of the scandal.

A congressional investigation could well prove a millstone around the administration’s neck, and provide ample opportunity for Democratic grandstanding. But it’s also the only way to rescue American foreign policy towards Russia from a widening gyre of increasingly fantastical speculation and innuendo.

Read the whole thing there [1].

11 Comments (Open | Close)

11 Comments To "Saving Russia Policy From Trump"

#1 Comment By MikeCLT On March 3, 2017 @ 2:19 pm

“The most inflammatory possible explanations for the Trump campaign’s contacts are that either Trump himself or high-placed members of his team were susceptible to Russian financial pressure or blackmail — or that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians on dirty tricks to defeat Hillary Clinton. Either would clearly justify prosecutions and likely impeachment.”

The Russians tried to hack both the DNC and the RNC. They were only successful at hacking the DNC. Doesn’t seem likely Trump was in on a plan to hack the RNC.

#2 Comment By Laughler On March 3, 2017 @ 2:58 pm

There are a few things that could be done, but never will be done that could fundamentally change the situation:

1) Trump should fully release his tax returns. He is being intentionally and overly opaque something that should be completely transparent. If there is no financial connection to the Russians that a lot of people are alluding to then his opposition ends up with egg on their face.

2) Trump should fully divest from his companies to prove that he is beholden to us the taxpayers and takes this job seriously, rather than a side gig he seems to be treating it.

3)Fully staff the State Department and increase their budget, instead of taking it away for Defense. If this is really about making better relations there are many things that can be done with soft power.

4) Make it a point from now on to be radically transparent about all activities relating to Russia. And fully explain why he wants to do what he wants to do. (This isn’t that extreme it is called public policy for a reason)

5) Start treating the intelligence agencies with respect, take what they say as coming from a perspective instead of making them an enemy. There is always a balance taken in what they say, but ignoring them is not the way.

6) Stop treating Putin with deference. He can be treated with respect as a world leader and can be a partner in different areas, but he is not to be trusted completely and for Trump to go out of his way all the time is highly questionable.

#3 Comment By Ken Hoop On March 3, 2017 @ 3:25 pm

Until the air is clear, American policy vis Russia is “badly tainted.”
So says Millman.
In reality America’s Russian policy has been “badly tainted” since its primary goal of keeping Berlin and Moscow on opposite sides and irreconcilable was implemented many decades ago.
Aided lately by such ethnic Russophobes as Nuland and Farkas.

[3]

#4 Comment By Dakarian On March 3, 2017 @ 3:46 pm

I guess that’s why i want these investigations. I can’t stand Trump but i don’t want him found guilty since that means there really was an election tainted by foreign influence.

But we really can’t go on with “nothing happened, trust me”. Especially since the the folks involved are acting so squirrelly. Note that for both Flynn and Sessions the issue is less who they talked to but more about how they felt it so important to hide it to the point of lying and\or tricking others to lie. With almost no information we now have one man fired and another pulled partally from his duties. And during that we keep being told “there’s nothing there, stop looking”.

For the sake of everyone, we need to put closure to this matter. Go in, investigate, let the public know what happened. Then we can try to stop speculating for four years.

Well it won’t stop the die hards, but at least we could put it in the same pile as “911 inside job” stories and Obama’s birth record scandals.

And if something serious did happen, we better learn of it now than later.

#5 Comment By Fran Macadam On March 3, 2017 @ 7:10 pm

Sure, nothing like another House UnAmerican Activities Committee witch hunt.

If it’s all BS (and it is) why not escalate it? How great for solving the problems of the country – NOT.

Sickening spectacle. No need to appoint a horse to the Senate – so many are already horses’ asses.

America is fast becoming ungovernable, its elites driven mad.

#6 Comment By Stephen R Gould On March 3, 2017 @ 7:22 pm

Consider the analogy of a prosecutor spending tens of thousands of dollars fighting an appeal from a convict who wants DNA testing (which nowadays costs a few hundred bucks). If you resist the test, it’s not because you think he’s guilty – it’s because you think he’s innocent.

As the analogy applies in Congress, AFAIC if you’re a typical GOP legislator, you would want to hold an investigation only if you believe that there’s nothing to find. The fact that they are resisting so hard tells me that they are by no means sure there’s nothing there.

#7 Comment By Radnorite On March 4, 2017 @ 12:01 am

“But it’s also the only way to rescue American foreign policy towards Russia from a widening gyre of increasingly fantastical speculation and innuendo.”

No it’s not. There’s boredom.

#8 Comment By Lee On March 4, 2017 @ 1:30 am

Not sure why shadow aspects of US interest, continue to be so racist against the Russians, and their peoples, excepting special interest that profit greatly from discord. It’s a different age, and time for a change.

#9 Comment By Robert Levine On March 4, 2017 @ 3:50 pm

But until the air is clear, American policy towards Russia is badly tainted. Every move this administration makes is being interpreted through the lens of the most outlandish suppositions.

The fact that they haven’t been straight about their past contacts with Russian officials – even when it would have been in their personal interests to do so (i.e. Sessions) argues that’s there’s fire beneath all the smoke. Sessions could have said “I had contact with the Russian ambassador as a senator but we didn’t discuss the campaign” and offered up the notes taken by his aides (there were notes, were’t there?) as evidence. It would have been a one-day story, and would not have stopped his confirmation. Instead, he misled. It’s entirely rational to believe that his answer was part of a cover-up, and to wonder just what’s being covered up.

US policy towards Russia has been a mess for a long time; in fairness, it’s a difficult issue, and Putin does nothing to make it less so. A hardening towards Russia based on supposition is indeed a bad idea; it’s not clear to me that a hardening based on evidence of Russian hacking is a good idea either.

#10 Comment By Future Bluejay On March 5, 2017 @ 1:32 pm

@Robert Levine – “It would have been a one-day story, and would not have stopped his confirmation. Instead, he misled. It’s entirely rational to believe that his answer was part of a cover-up, and to wonder just what’s being covered up.”

It’s also rational to think that as a long-time Senator being grilled by other long-time Senators, Sessions relied too much on collegial understanding, shared assumptions, such as “we both know we’re talking about the campaign as opposed to my Senate role”.

But anyone willing to work for Trump is treated with even more suspicion and hostility than Republicans made Obama appointees endure the last eight years. Go work for Trump and as far as most of the media is concerned you’ve resigned from the human race.

#11 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 7, 2017 @ 3:43 pm

““It would have been a one-day story, and would not have stopped his confirmation. Instead, he misled. It’s entirely rational to believe that his answer was part of a cover-up, and to wonder just what’s being covered up.”

I don’t think you understand the current political environment. Nothing those opposed to the campaign of Pres. Trump prepared them for a loss – nothing. No story concerning Russia was ever going to be a “one day” story.

Furthermore, it’s really ridiculous to form a committee to search for a crime about conduct that is not criminal. I do grant that the most effective response to the Russia probe was given by Mr. Bolton. Upon being asked his response is,

“Sure, I talk to Russians all the time.”

While I do think that the Pres. should have held his fire until he had evidence in hand to support his contention. Given the behavior of the last 8 months, I would not be shocked if member of the previous admin. actually engaged in an investigation of Mr. Trump and his supporters. Given their fears, (ignoring the irrationality) I would not put it past them. And should evidence be produced – so be it. Allow the chips to fall where they may.

It makes the watergate file snatchers look like angels engaged in a practical joke. And that they used the legal process to so engage — that’ll be a fun investigation.