“Efforts will be made…to disrupt national self-confidence, to hamstring measures of national defense, to increase social and industrial unrest, to stimulate all forms of disunity…Poor will be set against rich, black against white, young against old, newcomers against established residents…Everything possible will be done to set major western powers against each other…Where suspicions exist they will be fanned; where not, ignited.”
That, warned George Kennan, then deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Moscow, was what the Russian regime had in mind for the West. The year was 1946. Stalin was in charge and the Cold War was just beginning. Seventy one years later, Soviet communism supposedly in the grave for a generation, Stalin’s latest successor, Vladimir Putin, appears to be guided by something uncannily akin to Uncle Joe’s playbook as Kennan described it in his famous “Long Telegram”.
Whether or not the active measures Putin’s security services deployed against Hillary Clinton in last year’s election were what put Donald Trump over the top is probably beyond knowing, given all the other variables. That they did meddle is incontrovertible.
They exploited social media platforms Facebook and Twitter to disseminate agitprop designed, in many cases, to inflame the resentments of carefully targeted audiences, in others, to suppress voter turnout. They hacked email accounts and made sure the fruits of their hacking were delivered to the media at strategic moments. If they failed to tamper with voter rolls, it was not for want of trying. This was war by other means.
No longer contested, either, is that people in Trump’s camp, including his son Donald Jr,. agreed to meet with creatures who represented themselves as close to the Kremlin and said they had dirt on Clinton. George Papadopoulos, a Trump foreign policy adviser, has admitted to lying to federal authorities about the content and timing of discussions with Kremlin cut-outs who were offering to supply the Trump campaign with “thousands” of Clinton-compromising emails.
Was there collusion between Teams Trump and Putin? That is what Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been tasked with determining. Announced on Monday, the indictments of Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, the bottom-most of all Washington bottom-feeders , and sidekick Richard Gates, do not on their face get us any closer to an answer. Neither does Papadopoulos’ guilty plea.
Much, of course, depends on how you define collusion. Does it only occur when the parties are actively and deliberately conspiring? Or can one collude passively, by letting things be done on one’s behalf which one knows to be improper but which one has neither directly encouraged nor requested? If blind-eye but mens rea collusion is actual collusion, Trump most assuredly colluded — or has no mens. But is that a crime? Or is it a purely political question, to be decided at the polls rather than by a court? Perhaps Mueller will supply an answer.
In the interim this we know: Trump, as a candidate for president, knew that relations between the US and Russia were, to put it mildly, adversarial. Otherwise why would he have campaigned on a pledge to improve them? He knew also that the Russians had stolen Democratic National Committee emails, yet he made light of it, openly inviting the Russians to find emails that had been erased from Clinton’s controversial private server.
A honourable man who cared about his country and its constitution, a genuine patriot, would have denounced the dirty tricks of a power known to wish the US ill, not encouraged or joked about them. Instead, he played and continues to play straight into hands of Stalin’s heir, setting Americans on each other at home and sundering America’s partnerships abroad — fanning suspicions where they exist, and igniting them where they do not.