How did a party, that still pays lip service to Ronald Reagan is the father of modern conservatism end up as the tool of Vladimir Putin’s Russia? Reagan spent his entire career fighting against Russian influence globally. In just a few years, his beloved party is now an apologist for Russian efforts in their own country domestically and around the world globally.
To understand all of this, one needs to see just how brilliant Vladimir Putin and his intelligence service have been. Historically, the old Soviet Union would launch covert ops designed to co-opt the left. Socialist groups, anti-Vietnam War groups, progressive journalists, pretty much anyone on the left that was anti-establishment could be targeted. They looked for sympathetic political allies.
In those days it was simply assumed that guys like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, who had gotten a start in their political careers crafting their foreign polices with countering Russian influence around the globe as the central goal, were not easily influenced. So it was the lefties that got targeted for manipulation by Russian intelligence.
This was true all the way back to the very beginning of the Soviet state when the Comintern infiltrated every Russian emigre group, used lefty socialist student groups at universities to recruit spies, and so on.
The brilliance of Putin’s intelligence effort to influence US policy towards Russia is that he made the decision to target American Conservatives. Russians have a very sophisticated understanding of individual and political psychology. During their entire history since the Revolution, the field of psychology has been treated as a tool for maintaining state control.
Russian intelligence has realized that the main objection to Russia as a nation on the part of the US was it’s adherence to Godless Communism. Now, that any pretense of being a Communist country has been dropped, they have realized that as an autocratic, totalitarian state, there are many areas on confluence with the American right. Now that Putin’s Russia has embraced its Orthodox heritage and dropped notions of socialism and communism in favor of oligarchy in which a small group of fabulously wealthy individuals run the country, the American right has realized just how much they have in common with their former enemies.
Russian intelligence understands this. They know their history. Back in the 1930’s, it was the American right that toyed with Fascism as a perceived defense against the popular revolt of the unemployed working class. The American oligarchs, the Bushes, the Morgans, Duponts, Fords etc actually initiated a coup to overthrow President Roosevelt which never coalesced. Up until Pearl Harbor these people openly admired the Fascist leaders like Hitler in Europe in just the same way we see Donald Trump openly expressing admiration for Vladimir Putin.
Putin’s intelligence service recognized that Putin’s narrative of Russia as the Christian bulwark against the Asiatic menace of the Islamic hordes, their draconian anti-LGBT policies, even Putin’s strong man ability to crush media opposition all appeal to the American right and represented points of entry for targeting Russian influence efforts.
Really, what it comes down to is that the American right has a built in bias towards authoritarianism. Donald Trump is openly admiring of various strong men around the world. The GOP has been praising Vladimir Putin’s leadership. All of this is the result of a twenty year campaign on the part of Russian intelligence to influence the American right.
They still do work the left. It’s fairly clear that the Russians used Jill Stein as a tool to split voters off of the Democratic Party and prevent at least a portion of progressive voters from unifying with the Clinton campaign after Bernie Sanders lost the nomination. This continues… `It is quite revealing to see that the pro-Russia narrative being pushed by many members of the far right is virtually identical to that of the far left radical progressives. But the Russians understand that the far left in the US is politically marginalized and has no actual political power.
As voters, we need to look at administration and Republican policy from the stand point of how it serves Russian policy objectives. Despite Putin’s courting of Donald Trump and other right wing figures, he is not a “friend” of America but a savvy adversary whose real interest in in creating division between the US and its European allies, damaging political unity on the US, and even damaging our essential confidence in our democratic institutions. We need to be very careful to see what is happening through this filter or we risk being manipulated into policies that damage the country in the long run.
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The revelations of Mike Flynn’s talks with the Russian government during the campaign and the clear attempt to undermine the foreign policy of the sitting President, Barrack Obama have been in the news this week. Much justified outrage is being expressed and once again, as happens every so often, the public gets reminded of the Logan Act.
Passed in 1799 the Act takes its name from George Logan who attempted to negotiate foreign policy with France on his own. So Congress made it very clear that it is the President of the United Sates and him alone who has the power to negotiate on behalf of the country with foreign powers. Period.
So, given that this is quite clearly stated in US law, why won’t Mike Flynn face indictment and prosecution for what seems like a clear violation of the Logan Act? Because, as it turns out, the Logan Act is one of the singularly most useless laws on the American books. No one, not even the original George Logan, has EVER been prosecuted under this law. The only person to even be arrested was in 1803. This despite a number of truly egregious violations over the years.
In 1968, one of the most turbulent years in American history, the Nixon campaign secretly contacted the North Vietnamese using Anna Chennault as a go between. They attempted to convince the North Vietnamese at the Paris Peace talks not to sign a peace deal until after Nixon was elected. While it is unclear whether this actually made any real difference in prolonging the Vietnam War, it is about as clear an example of what the Logan Act was meant to prevent as any one could find. But no one was charged, it never went to court, and no one was held accountable.
Another heinous violation, never proven of course, was the accusation leveled at the Reagan campaign that they had secretly contacted the Iranian government in an attempt to ensure that the American hostages would not be released while Carter was still President so that he couldn’t claim the credit. Given the proven charges of other nefarious negotiations with the Iranians that became known as the Iran Contra Affair that sent people to jail, a certain amount of credibility exists for these accusations. But they were never pursued.Aside from various attempts to use the law to discourage overseas visits by the opposition Party’s Congressional figures, like George McGovern and John Sparkman visiting Cuba on a “fact finding mission” or Reagan’s outrage with Jesse Jackson returning from Cuba after securing the release of some political prisoners, suggested violations seem to have been fairly minor until the March 2015 open letter by Republican members of Congress seeking to undermine President Obama’s conduct of foreign policy with the Iranians.
That was probably the most clear cut violation in our history of the Logan Act since it was done quite publicly by members of Congress seeking to undermine the foreign policy of the President of the United Sates, which was PRECISELY what the law was written to prevent. A number of calls to prosecute the offending members were made but, once again, nothing actually happened.
So, my researches into this statute indicate that the Logan Act is a singular piece of legislation that is never actually enforced and only serves as a bludgeon used by one party or another to beat up their opponents periodically. It is not at all clear why it is never enforced… perhaps because each side knows that if they use it against their enemies now, they might later be on the receiving end later. Rather like the US and the Soviets agreeing not to shoot each other’s spies. In the end, the chance that the Logan Act will be used to prosecute Mike Flynn are just about zero. It would totally unprecedented for it to happen.