ADKINS: Putin has worked against our alliances for years


Michael Adkins

Vladimir Putin has been fighting an undeclared war against Western democracies with cyber-attacks and disinformation campaigns for over a decade. Only after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has there been a bipartisan agreement to that fact. His undeclared war was instrumental in the emergence of the far-right party of France’s Marine la Pen, and the success of Brexit. Both designed to weaken European unity. Then in 2016 Putin interfered in our Presidential election.

Putin has enjoyed having what Russia calls “useful idiots” abroad, including within the United States. America’s far-right fell right in line before it realized what it was doing. Many American evangelicals viewed Putin as a “Christian savior” perhaps not so much because of the regeneration of the Russian Orthodox Church as his violent stance against the LBGQT community in Russia. The reason so many right-wing media commentators, such as Tucker Carlson, Steve Bannon, and Laura Ingraham have shown a love affair with the powerful autocrat is because that is what he is, a powerful autocrat. Polling in the past few years has indicated an increasing number of Americans, especially on the right, want a strong, less democratic leader. Putin certainly fills that bill. Useful idiots were certainly found among Trump’s administration and supporters, including but not limited to Paul Manafort, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Flynn.

The ultimate useful idiot was President Trump. I list some evidence. We know there were over 121 contacts between members of the Trump team and campaign with Russians who had ties to the Kremlin. We know that Russia interfered with the 2016 election because Putin believed Hilary Clinton was a puppet master pulling the strings of the Russian protests following his election. Nominee Trump successfully removed from the GOP platform language supporting arming Ukraine with defensive weapons. We know that in Helsinki, Trump took the word of Putin over American intelligence agencies. We know that it was Putin who began the conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the election rather than Russia. This led to the infamous phone call to Pres. Zelensky and the threat to withhold weapons if he did not create an investigation designed to embarrass Joe Biden. We know that Trump tried but failed to lift sanctions against Russia. We know President Trump tried to reinstate Russia to the G7, even though its economy doesn’t even rank in the top 13 globally. Further, we know that Trump continually harangued NATO while praising Putin. The weakening of NATO remains one of Putin’s top priorities and his belief that NATO was sufficiently divided led to the Ukrainian invasion. Former Trump administration official John Bolton recently declared his belief that Trump intended to pull the U.S. out of NATO if reelected.

That is now water under the bridge, and most Republicans are in lock step with the Biden Administration’s stand against Russia. A recent poll revealed that 70% of Americans don’t mind paying higher gas prices if our sanctions punish Putin. How long such unity exists one can only guess. But it is vitally important that we remain unified for this is indeed a war even if we don’t have boots on the ground.

America’s resistance to Putin is a delicate balancing act and thus far, President Biden has done an excellent job. A conservative friend asked me, as if I had any influence in the White House, to “tell Biden to go in.” That is not going to happen. Trump can destroy himself without our engaging in a military conflict. At the same time, if Putin invades other nations such as Finland and Sweden, there may be no other choice but American boots on the ground.

Michael Adkins formerly was chair of the Hancock County Democratic Party.