The release of the Democratic Party’s hacked emails has already prompted the resignation of Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and caused consternation about suspected Russian manipulation of our election by Vladimir Putin, who’s frequently been the subject of Donald Trump’s admiration and the leader most likely to benefit from dissolution of U.S. alliances. Actually, both of these may benefit the Democrats in the long run. Wasserman Schultz has long been an irritant to many Democrats, and the Russia-Trump relationship deserves close examination. Granted, however, Hillary Clinton surely did not need 24 hours of “Democrats mess up” news coverage. (Clinton supporters can find solace in the likelihood that most Americans have no idea who Wasserman Schultz is.)
As to the Russia angle, the New York Times reports, “Researchers have concluded that the national committee was breached by two Russian intelligence agencies . . . and metadata from the released emails suggests that the documents passed through Russian computers.” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook pointed out in a weekend interview that Russians would have every reason to prefer Trump, whose admiration for Putin, disdain for European allies and isolationist policies make him Putin’s dream American president. The FBI is already investigating the hack.
If the roles were reversed, surely the GOP would be screaming that the opposing party is a pawn of the Russians and proof its opponent serves our foe’s interests. Eli Lake quotes Mike Vickers, a former undersecretary of defense for intelligence and a Clinton supporter, as saying that “all signs point to cyber actors with ties to Russian Intelligence. . . . What is unprecedented, it seems to me, is the use of these tools for covert political influence against the United States during a presidential general election.” Lake observes:
That indeed would be unprecedented. The Russians operate RT, an English-language television network that gives airtime to 9/11 conspiracy theorists and other anti-American views. If the Russians are behind the DNC hack, it would be a new tactic that combines the state’s overt influence operations with its covert cyber-spying.
This is a big deal — and both parties should be demanding answers. The Obama administration’s laxity with Putin and failure to respond forcefully to previous hacks by foreign powers now opens up the possibility that our election process will be manipulated to serve the preferences of a foreign power. Even in the Cold War — aside from novels and movies — this would have been unthinkable.
As for Trump, this is all the more reason to demand he and his campaign manager, who previously worked for the Russian-backed leader of Ukraine and who helped remove aid for Ukraine from the GOP platform, come clean on any and all financial ties to Russia. Democrats, Republicans and the media should begin demanding answers as to why Trump seems even more inclined to accommodate Putin than President Obama has been.
Max Boot reminds us that in shedding doubt on our Article V obligations to offer defense to NATO allies if attacked (“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all . . .”), Trump strikes at “the very foundation of NATO, the most successful alliance in history.” Boot explains:
There is no ambiguity in the treaty. It doesn’t say that members will come to each other’s aid if they feel like it. It says they will act if a member is attacked. The only time that Article V has been invoked was after 9/11 when other NATO members rushed to help the United States in Afghanistan and beyond. By casting doubt on whether he would respond to Article V violations, Trump is destroying the foundations of collective security and emboldening Vladimir Putin. . . .
Simply by talking the way he is, even without being elected to any office, Trump is doing serious damage to American credibility and to collective security. Our allies are carefully watching our presidential campaign, and they are—as I can attest, based on my conversations in South Korea and the Baltic Republics—unnerved by what Trump is saying. Even before his latest comments, they were extremely anxious; now they will be apoplectic. Meanwhile our enemies—the likes of Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un—have to be smiling, because they imagine a day before long when Trump becomes president, and they will be free to attack their neighbors with impunity.
They have every reason then to give Trump a leg up in the campaign.