^ the would-be “emperor of the world” is NOT our friend

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Two days ago, President Obama took the first of what promises to be several actions countering the recent hacking of our election by Russia and its boss, Vladimir Putin. Obama expelled 35 Russian intelligent agents who were living here as diplomats, sanctioned two Russian agencies thought to be instruments of that interference, and closed down two Russian compounds housing the interferers, one in New York, the other in Maryland.

By doing so, Obama did two crucial things : first, he assured that the issue of Russian interference in our election would be noted by many, as it was not during the election. Second, he thereby created an ongoing, political constituency of opposition to Russia’s cyber war imperialism, which threatens the stability of all the Western democracies, not just our own.

This second result was crucial to the President’s policy. As the incoming President, Mr. Trump, supports Putin and was the beneficiary of Putin’s interference,. it is vital that Mr. Trump face a large, committed, ongoing opposition to any moves he might make to get nicey nicey with our national enemy.

It helps to give some historical facts so that you can grasp what is at stake here and why:

1.The break-up of the Soviet Union freed the three Baltiic States, Belarus, and, most importantly, the Ukraine, to be independent and to form a cordon of hostility around what was left of the Soviet Union, namely Russia only. All these newly independent states except Belarus have since become NATO members, an encirclement that includes America under NATO treaty obligations.

2.havinga hostile Ukraine on its southwest border rather than integrated into Russia is, historically, a mortal wound. You may recall that an independent Ukraine was forced upon Russia by a victorious Germany in 1918. Quickly that treaty ended up being reversed; but now it is in full force again, courtesy of the Soviet Union’s own breakup.

3.Without the Ukraine, its farmlands, and its geographic thrust into the heart of Europe, Russia is almost only an Asiatic power, not a European one; and Putin’s policies have been, first, to take back Ukraine — he succeeded in taking its Crimea section — and to exploit Russia’s Asiatic power to the fullest, as he has done by involving Russia militarily in the Syrian Civil War.

4.Surrounded by enemies on its European side, and with oil prices crumbling, thus all but bankrupting Russia’s economy, Putin has had to strike back in the Middle East for the sake of oil and to find weak nesses in the cordon that walls him in. He has found one : cyber war, by which disinformation — a Russian specialty since Tsarist days — can subvert the solidity of his opponents’ own politics. Putin has used cyber hacks and news disinformation to subvert several elections in Europe; he was more successful than ever in ours because he had an actual candidate to support, not just some to oppose; and Mr. Trump was happy to embrace him and thus create a political constituency here that favors Putin even over our own politicians.

5.Never since the war of 1812 had America experienced the creation of a political interest espousing a foreign leader over any of our own. This is not a minor thing. Nations divided politically by favoring foreign leaders rather than their own are enormously weakened. Nothing could be more debilitating to a nation’s moral civic commitment. One thinks of Germany during the centuries that its component states owed more loyalty to French kings than to each other; or to England during the 17th Century, when one faction supported Catholic Spain and/or France, another Protestant Holland, and actually fought civil wars with ach other in pursuit thereof.

6.Within our own nation, Putin regularly hosts conferences of various secessionists : Texas, California, and the like,. He is actively promoting secession — an act of war which, were it to get beyond the chimeric stage, would require us to fight him likewise, and with force.

We have seen in our recent politics how opponents of President Obama have gone the whole route to outright treason (support for a foreign leader over our own) and to opposing democracy itself, if need be, to undermine our elected leader’s policies. Now, with the coming of Mr. Trump, said opponents see advantage in touting Mr. Putin as the good guy; which he is not.

We cannot advance as a nation if a foreign leader — especially one who is a criminal and a tyrant — can sway and command a major portion of our public opinion and, in fact, create his constituency in the heart of our politics. Not only can we not advance; we will be lucky to avoid break up and civil war if such a constituency is not defeated, and soon. This, President Obama has now begun to do. It comes none too soon, and my thinking is that he is opening the 2020 election and its policy debate on this basis : we cannot allow Vladimir Putin to have a political following inside America.

This issue unites Democrats and most Republicans. It is by far the majority opinion. President Obama has assured that Mr. Trump’s pro-0Russian foreign policy will not stand for long,. That is an achievement worthy of Obama’s Presidency and of our nation’s political solidarity.

-0— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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