Russian interference hype buries the important issues at Trump-Putin meeting

Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times: Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki
Contributed by Jim Hayes

The Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin meeting in Helsinki attracted a hell of a lot of publicity for the wrong thing. All attention was on how Trump dealt with the alleged Russian interference in the American election. There were other and more important issues that deserved attention.

Before going on, it may be useful to explain something of the context of the interference issue. It is probable that the Russians did have a hand in the help along the result of the election that saw Trump into the White House. There is nothing strange or new in this.

The United states has interfered in Russia for many decades. Congress has been financing opposition political groups. The CIA run endowment for Democracy and other agencies have been sending their people in to train Russian politicians and direct political strategy. All this is documented, and it is not denied.

In comes Hilary Clinton. She has a history of being particularly hostile to Russia. The number one contributor to her election campaign was George Soros, and his core political activity is what is now generally termed as carrying out “regime change” in Russia. Backing Clinton was highly likely to involve an understanding that as President, she would give a helping hand.

Form this point of view, the Russians had a clear incentive to not want Clinton in the White House and to prefer Trump.

But at the end of the day, Trump got up, not because of the Russians, but because of the economic and political conditions, plus the fact that Hilary Clinton was not a good candidate. Voters preferred those who they thought were anti-establishment.  Most opponents of Trump went for Bernie Sanders. The way the Democrat leadership treated him turned many away  from Clinton.

The over exaggeration of Russian interference serves to bury these truths under the carpet and evade the important issues.

At Helsinki, talks involved important topics like nuclear arms control, Syria, Crimea and the Ukraine, global trade and China. All these issues are immeasurably more important than the alleged Russian interference, and the world sorely needs significant progress on all fronts.

At their joint press conference, the two leaders said very little about the results of their talk, and most of the mainstream media could not care less and failed to report on this.

The absence of a concrete agreement shows that the gulf between the two sides remains too big. The Russians have an interest in not being left in the cold and the removal of trade restrictions in place against them. From Trump’s point of view, there is an interest in driving a wedge between Russia and China. Trump also seeks to break down barriers to American penetration into Europe, and this added an extra dimension to his discussions with Putin.

Trump, however, made quite a mess of the whole thing. His diplomatic skills are in short supply.  He has a much more talent for causing division than bringing people together. The fallout has been fueled by his own ineptitude and preference for the photo shoot, rather than the real business of the day.

This was an opportunity wasted. Not so much in the sense that he failed to get his pound of flesh over Russian interference. But because the meeting could have been used to make the world a little safer.

Putting this aside. Donald Trump remains the most dangerous individual on this planet. He is the global leader of the politics of hate, who has become the poster boy of every white supremacist and fascist group. He has provided them with a political platform, and an opportunity of some legitimacy.

We should never forget this. Neither should we let it mesmerise us into losing hold on the important issues.


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