2018-06-13 / Editorial

THE RUSSIANS ARE OUR FRIENDS

Michael N. Searles

The days of President Ronald Reagan with his tough rhetoric toward the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” whose leaders gave themselves the “right to commit any crime” are long gone. With thawing relations and a move away from the Cold War, things have gotten down right friendly. During World War II, after Russia join the Allies, the United States engaged in a campaign to promote positive attitudes toward the country. Wartime posters appeared showing a smiling Russian soldier with the caption: This man is your FRIEND; He fights for FREEDOM. In postwar America, the Republican Party targeted Russia as an adversary and described the United States as fighting an ideological struggle against the enemies of freedom. It seems that the old animosities have nearly disappeared. The GOP is warming to Russian President Vladimir Putin even as his regime’s interference in our elections intensifies. While some Republican leaders condemn Putin and call for investigations into Russia’s assault on our Democracy, rank-and-file Republicans are increasingly fond of Putin. Those Republicans have taken their lead from President Trump himself. At the Commander and Chief Forum in September 2016, he said, “the Russian president has been a leader far more than our president [Obama] has been". There was a certain irony that his statement was expressed on the same day that the chief of the Pentagon accused Russia of sowing seeds of global instability. President Trump’s refusal to say anything negative about Putin or Russia has been his hallmark. The feeling apparently is mutual since Putin has called Trump a hero and has been reluctant to say anything negative about him. If the Russians wanted a “Man on the Inside,” they need look no further than the current resident of the White House.

The Republican Party likes Russia and Russia likes the Republican Party. Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage who testified before the Duma (a Russian Assembly) in 2013, as Russia adopted a series of anti-gay laws, visited Moscow four times in four years. Top officials from the National Rifle Association, whose 2015 annual meeting featured an address by Trump, traveled to Moscow to visit a Russian gun manufacturer and meet government officials. In the same year, evangelist Franklin Graham met privately with Putin for 45 minutes, securing from the Russian president an offer to help with an upcoming conference on the persecution of Christians. Graham later told the Washington Post that Putin “answers questions very directly and doesn’t dodge them like a lot of our politicians do.” While under Russian law ordinary citizens can obtain permits to own two types of weapons: those for hunting – including shotguns and rifles – and guns firing rubber bullets for personal protection only, Russia provides an inordinate amount of support to the NRA in the form of finances and allowed the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank, Alexander Torshin, to become a lifetime member of the NRA. The NRA reportedly received only $2,512.85 in contributions and membership dues “from people associated with Russian addresses” or known Russian nationals living in the United States from 2015 to the present. However, the McClatchy Newspapers reported that the FBI was investigating whether Torshin funneled money to the National Rifle Association subsequently spent in support of the Trump campaign. The NRA reported spending $30 million on advertisements and other aid to Trump, part of a record $55 million that the group spent during the 2016 campaign cycle, according to the McClatchy story. Even though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated "The Russians are not our friends," actions speak louder than words. The President has popularized the “America First” slogan, but it seems that he and a lot of Republicans are willing to allow the Russians to take part in our electoral system and disrupt our democracy with the Spnish expression “Mi Casa es Su Casa.”

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