Trump enabled Putin, and this is the result
To the Editor:
Vladimir Putin has been conducting a hacking and disinformation war against the U.S. for years (China, Iran, and North Korea have, too, but less effectively). In Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018, then-President Donald Trump stood beside Putin at a live press conference.
A reporter asked Trump about our intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election. Trump first trashed our intel agencies, then answered, “… he (Putin) says it’s not Russia. I will say I don’t see any reason why it would be.” Here is the short answer:
Putin/Russian cyber-hacks into U.S. government agencies began in 2015 as revenge for the Obama Administration and European allies’ successful sanctions against Russia for invading and occupying Crimea. (Crimea is part of sovereign Ukraine.) Sanctions were cutting into Putin and his fellow oligarchs’ wealth. In response, Russian disinformation warfare on social media escalated. It has created or amplified every major political issue to divide Americans.
Throughout his campaign and presidency, Trump acted to benefit Putin and Russia while harming the U.S. He continues to this day.
Ukraine’s previous president, installed by Putin, had two American campaign managers. They are Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. Manafort and Gates went from Ukraine to become Trump’s campaign managers. In 2018 Manafort was found guilty of eight counts of bank and tax fraud involving millions in Russian payments. He went to prison, but Trump pardoned him.
Except for Trump, no U.S. president has ever held conversations alone with another leader, let alone a deadly enemy. Trump banned the White House top security stenographer from his infamous Helsinki meeting. He also held many private cell phone talks with Putin.
Trump was impeached in part for trying to coerce Ukraine’s new President Zelensky into helping Trump win re-election. President Zelensky refused to lie even though Trump threatened to withhold military aid approved by Congress. Soon after, Trump had the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch fired for exposing his/Putin’s illegal plan.
Early in his term Trump did away with the White House office that coordinated cybersecurity operations. He fired the State Department cybersecurity policy head. In November 2020 he fired his own appointee Chris Krebs, Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Department of Homeland Security. Trump fired or forced to resign other experienced military and intelligence experts from his cabinet, including Derek Harvey, senior director, National Security Council (NSC); and K.T. McFarland, deputy national security adviser. A U.S. cyber-defense commissioner told AP news service in 2020, “It’s been a frustrating time, the last four years. I mean, nothing has happened seriously at all in cybersecurity.”
Trump gave Putin other assurances of his loyalty. After the shocking news broke of Putin’s bounties on American soldiers killed by Afghans, Trump said and did nothing. In mid-August 2020, Russian warships rammed an American fishing fleet off Alaska. Response from Trump? Silence. The next month in Syria, Russian helicopters and tanks attacked and injured four American soldiers in U.S. tanks, the official Army Times reported. Response from Trump? Silence.
Trump has done exactly what Putin wanted. Like Putin, he values only money and power. Like Putin, his only loyalty is to himself.
Putin’s success cultivating Trump and his followers made him think he could conquer all of Ukraine without an effective U.S. and European response. What he thought would be a walkover is instead a globally-united punishment with devastating consequences for him and fellow oligarchs. In Russia, massive resistance by hundreds of thousands of people and denunciations by prominent officials and celebrities show how delusional he is. This mass murderer is the man Trump has called “savvy” and “smart.”
The attempt to conquer Ukraine is a step toward Putin’s stated goal to recreate the old USSR. His bigger goal is to weaken democracies, especially the U.S. Let us pray that Putin and Trump fail.