Russia hacked into Trump's tax returns

Russia policy of the USA - or: The great hypocrisy

Why shouldn't Vladimir Putin try to stand by Donald Trump in the fight for the US presidency?

I am reluctant to agree with Vladimir Putin, even to a limited extent. The Russian president is turning his country - the country of my birth - backwards, falsely arguing that violating international law is somehow good for Russians. But Americans' hysterical reaction to the Kremlin's alleged efforts to influence US presidential elections has forced me to look at things from Putin's perspective.

Admittedly, claims by US intelligence that Russia circulated false reports and published hacked emails in order to reduce Hillary Clinton's chances to vote against Donald Trump are not unfounded. It certainly corresponds to Putin's character to find out about secrets and create disinformation in the wrong direction - after all, he was an agent of the Soviet secret service KGB. The allegations that Putin has a dossier of compromising material on Trump also sound credible, albeit so far unconfirmed. It would make little sense for Russia to exclude Trump from its intrigues.

Putin's own order

Beyond the Trump issue, the leaders of the Republican Party should also be aware that if Russia hacked the Democrats, it was also spying on its own party's servers. Even if the allegedly sensational details of the dossier are not exactly correct, Russia is probably in possession of some compromising business records or even Trump's tax returns: information that Trump is trying as hard as possible to hide from the US public. If Trump does not behave and does not take the Russian side on issues ranging from NATO to Ukraine, he will probably see his secrets revealed - as was the case with Clinton.

The US reaction to this prospect has been extreme. Beloved supporters of the new president are also ready to show indulgence when it comes to the delicate male friendship between Trump and Putin. Others, including senior Republicans, citing the latest intelligence report, are calling for tough action against Putin's government, even if a new Cold War is clearly in no one’s interests.

In my opinion, the intelligence report was problematic in principle. It is teeming with speculation and distortion and is based on the argument that Putin must be an enemy because he does not share the values ​​of the West. But how could he do that? Russia was never really welcome in the Western world order; it was even less accepted as an equal partner. For this reason, Putin has tried to create his own international order.

Indeed, at the beginning of his presidency, Putin wanted Russia to be part of Europe. But he was immediately confronted with the expansion of NATO into the Baltic States. In 2006, the then US administration under George W. Bush announced its plans to build a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe to protect the allies from ICBMs from Iran. Russia saw this plan - which President Barack Obama implemented in 2015 - as a direct threat.

The US has supported anti-Putin forces since 2008, and stepped up that support in 2011. In 2013, the US welcomed the protests in Ukraine that led to the overthrow of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

USA also has its crooks

Yanukovych was undoubtedly a crook, but the US has also supported many crooks. Their efforts to deny Russia or other powers the right to similarly disgusting lackeys are pure hypocrisy.

US foreign policy is permeated with such double standards. Bush's war in Iraq was declared on the basis of tendentious intelligence. For his part, Obama supported the Arab Spring uprisings but failed to offer democratic strategies - an approach that turned Libya into a failed state, heightened dictatorial tendencies in Egypt and plunged Syria into a nightmarish conflict. At the same time, the American National Security Agency spied on everything and everyone - friend or foe.

The intelligence report also claims that Putin is seeking to undermine liberal democracy. It seems clear, however, that its primary goal is to expose the double standards of the West.

America as a positive force

If the US can act boldly without having to apologize, Putin's way of thinking, the question arises why Russia should be denied its own sphere of influence - in Ukraine, for example.

And why shouldn't Putin try to support Trump in the election campaign? It is perfectly understandable that Putin supported Trump, who had repeatedly expressed his admiration for his administration - and not Clinton, who had compared him to Adolf Hitler.

The consideration that Putin should not be allowed to take any measures to protect his interests is an ideological partisanship disguised as objectivity, which also makes his claim that the West is after him appear credible.

Not to be misunderstood, despite all its shortcomings, the US remains a positive force in this world. You are perhaps the only positive force besides the EU that should stop its internal bickering and start putting megalomaniac and illiberal heads of state in their ranks such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in their place. And the prospect that their new president will depend on Putin's grace should be a cause for concern for US citizens.

More solid foreign policy

The West’s policy towards Russia is not necessarily wrong. What is wrong is that this policy is largely guided by anger at Putin's nationalism rather than careful consideration of the diplomatic and strategic environment.

If the US now allows suspicion and speculation about Russian interference in the recent elections, it will most likely soon find itself in an even more destructive confrontation with Putin. Instead, the US should take a solid, considered, and measured approach to Russia - one that addresses values ​​not as propaganda, but as the basis for a clearer and more credible foreign policy.

Translated from the English by Helga Klinger-Groier

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2017

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Nina L. Khrushchev
(* 1964) studied at Moscow State University and received his doctorate from Princeton University. She is the granddaughter of the former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. She is currently Deputy Dean of the New School and Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute, where she heads the Russia Project. Her new book: "The Lost Khrushchev: Journey into the Gulag of the Russian Mind". [Project Syndicate]

("Die Presse", print edition, January 26th, 2017)