From Trump’s inauguration early this year, Democrats and the US media have attacked the administration for its connections to Russia and Vladimir Putin. Sami El-Sayed looks at the efforts to paint Trump as a KGB asset or Soviet Spy and places it in an historical context.
“[Russians are] genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favour…”
“We were and are under attack by a hostile foreign power… We should be debating how many sanctions we should place on Russia, or whether we should blow up the KGB.”
“The Communists are dictating the terms of the debate.”
The above quotes – all said in the past six months- are from James Clapper, Paul Begala, and Donna Brazile respectively. What do all of these people have in common? They are senior and high profile members of the Democratic Party.
Whilst it’s almost certain that there is some concrete connection between the Donald Trump electoral campaign, and the Russian government, the liberal response has been nothing short of frantic and incoherent – at best.
The Russian connection
There are two things at the root of the hysteria around Russia. The first is an almost childlike need for the Democratic Party leadership to deflect away from its own electoral failings, choosing to believe that Trump won the election on the back of a Russian conspiracy as opposed to the inability of the Democrats to mobilise voters in key areas.
The second is an ongoing conflict within the US ruling class over foreign policy in particular – that is, how to best prosecute the policy of US imperialism. The argument that the Democrats are essentially putting forward is that their archenemy is Russia and that the US national interest would be best served by removing “Russia friendly” Trump and putting themselves in place. By showing Trump as a compromised, almost literal Manchurian candidate, the Democrats hope to show to their corporate sponsors that they are the safer and more competent pair of hands to carry out their policies. American liberals are using nationalist rhetoric and Russophobia to make a concerted effort to put forward the claim that they’re better for the national interests of the US than Trump, compromised by the influence of foreigners.
The tools required to do that, however, are rampant fear mongering and cold warriorism. It’s no accident that the Democratic Party old guard and their foolish following are referring to Trump and Russia in Soviet terms – “Comrade Trump”, “the KGB”, “the Communists”. It’s not a rare sight to see Soviet flags on anti-Trump protests – to show Trump’s “communist” connections, nor is it uncommon amongst the liberal anti-Trump movement, riddled with conspiracy theorists, to point to the fact that all of Trump’s current and former partners have been from either former Eastern Bloc or former Yugoslav states.
That is because, according to liberals, Russia is responsible for the global political collapse of centrism. Why? To undermine the great and glorious nation that is the USA and the “rational”, grounded politics of Clinton and friends.
Yeltsin to Trump: Imperialism comes home to roost
While it’s a safe assumption to assume that there was some collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign, that doesn’t translate to Russia actually having a tangible impact on the elections, as the liberals are arguing. But to be charitable to the Democrats, let’s assume that the election was decided not by Clinton’s inability to challenge due to her right wing politics, but by Russia’s interference.
Forgotten by most Americans, either because they never paid attention in the first place or because it isn’t taught in school, Boris Yeltsin served as President of the Russian Federation from 1991 to 1999. In 1991, he rose to power on the basis of a collapsing USSR and offering a way forward, and some semblance of continuity in leadership. While the US’s involvement in the collapse of the Soviet Union is undisputed, the intervention into Russian politics that concerns us here is the Presidential election of 1996.
Surrounded by allegations of dictatorial measures and corruption, Yeltsin was facing a resurgent Communist Party which had the momentum and was on the way to victory. It was in this hour of need that the US sent over a team of “experts” to “advise” Yeltsin on his election campaign. Forget about the alleged backroom dealings of Putin and Trump – this was all very open election interference by the US into Russia, some 21 years ago. Of course, as Trump’s team is insisting now, so did Yeltsin’s insist that the Americans didn’t give any real help during the campaign.
The key strategy to the Yeltsin regime, after receiving its advice from the USA, was to essentially establish, reinforce and entrench a political and economic system of extreme oligarchy and corruption – the sale of major national industries to friends who would then pump major funds into your campaigns. Seize the business assets of those who were hostile to you. Establish a ring of extremely wealthy people who owned major industries and owned the media, and frame the narrative in your favour. It was on this basis, along with some “creative” vote counting, that Yeltsin won re-election in 1996. The immediate aftermath from this was the rise of Vladimir Putin in 1999, whose perception was one of a man who would give Russia its pride back.
Simply put, without American interference into the Russian democratic processes all during the 90’s, and if not for America completely messing up Russia’s social, economic and political development in order to stop it from properly developing and to keep it a subjugated puppet state, then there would have been no rise of Putin and no influencing of American elections some 18 years later. In 2012, then-President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, said that “there is hardly any doubt who won [the 1996 election]. It was not Boris Nikolaevich Yeltsin.”
Of course, that US interference into Russian elections happened under the oversight of US President and staunch Democrat, Bill Clinton. How ironic is that?