Everyone has heard the cliche “trust your instincts.” During Vladimir Putin’s time as president, he has annexed Crimea, which belonged to the sovereign nation of Ukraine, targeted opposition journalists and politicians and made waves within the U.S. government after allegations that members of the Trump administration had contact with the Russian government prior to President Donald Trump’s election.
A 2016 Pew Research poll found that only 22 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Russia. Similarly, 72 percent of Americans believe that Russia had something to do with the Democratic National Convention and Clinton email hackings, Pew Research found. I would say that the American people are on the right track.
Russia has been a major player in world politics for centuries, and that won’t stop now. But the truth is, we really don’t know what part they have played in present-day U.S. politics. Their role in the 2016 election is still highly debated, and the House intelligence Committee recently began a probe into their influence on the election. Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his contact with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The United States routinely monitors the phones of Russian diplomats. Flynn and Kislyak discussed sanctions and U.S. intelligence officials said that these conversations, during a presidential election, were unacceptable. The U.S. Department of Justice believes Flynn’s phone conversations with Kislyak could lead to blackmail by the Russian government.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions also had contact with the Russian Ambassador prior to the election, which he lied about under oath. Session spokesperson told the Washington Post that he met with many diplomats during his time as a senator. It is not the meeting itself that is troubling many lawmakers and citizens, but his omission of these meetings when explicitly asked about contact with Russia during the campaign.
Americans should be skeptical of a country that is under the leadership of a former Russian intelligence — or KGB — officer and should be aware of their deceptive tendencies. Putin attended the KGB school no. 1 in Moscow before later becoming an intelligence officer. During his KGB service, Putin worked in a counterintelligence unit of the KGB and served in Germany.
In January 2017 a C-Span broadcast was interrupted by the Russian news agency RT, which has coined the tagline “question more” and is owned by the Russian government, though it claims to be an independent organization. RT broadcasted for 10 minutes on C-Span while Rep. Maxine Waters discussed Russia and then President-Elect Trump. RT is also heavily implicated in Russia’s supposed efforts to influence the 2016 election, according to a report by the National Intelligence Council.
So, what do we think about all this? Russia has played the role of ally and enemy throughout history, so we should remember its tendency to play both sides. Additionally, the thought of the Russian government having any contact with the current administration or playing any part in the election has sowed mistrust in the minds of Americans. Even if members of the Trump administration are cleared of having any meaningful or nefarious contact with the Russians and if the House Intelligence Committee finds that they had no significant influence on the 2016 election, that mistrust will remain.
“I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma,” Winston Churchill said.