In his Middle East-centric history, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, author Peter Frankopan cites observations made in 1946 by George Kennan, then U.S. charge d’affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, which are shockingly revealing of the intent behind Russia’s efforts to undermine the 2016 U.S. elections.
Kennan wrote: “At the bottom of the Kremlin’s neurotic view of world affairs is the traditional and instinctive Russian sense of insecurity.” He went on to say that the Soviet Union was “a political force committed fanatically” to make certain that “the internal harmony of our state be disrupted, our traditional way of life be destroyed [and] the international authority of our state be broken.” Though the Soviet Union is gone and communism in Russia and Eastern Europe has been vanquished, Russian opposition and antipathy to the United States endures.
The fact that Russia tried through various means to influence the 2016 elections has been recognized by our various national security and intelligence agencies and virtually everyone other than Donald Trump and the Kremlin. They hacked into the Democratic National Convention’s servers and offered to provide to Trump campaign officials, including Donald Trump Jr., compromising information against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Facebook acknowledged to the Senate Intelligence Committee that it sold $100,000 in political advertising to Russian “troll farms” from June 2015 to May 2017. Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Angus King, I-Maine, have called Russia’s efforts “cyberwarfare,” and GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona called it “an act of war.”
Since the appointment of independent special prosecutor Robert Mueller, more and more facts have come to light revealing secret, illegal contacts and meetings between members of the Trump campaign, transition team and White House and Russian officials and individuals connected with the Russian government, the latest being those of Trump former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump’s appointments of persons to Cabinet positions and to head important federal agencies who are either diametrically opposed to their purpose and mission, even their existence — ex-presidential candidate Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy, Scott Pruitt of the Environmental Protection Agency and Mick Mulvaney of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau come readily to mind — and others totally unqualified — the nomination of nonscientist, conservative radio talk show host Sam Clovis to be chief scientist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture — show a very disturbing pattern.
During the George W. Bush administration, appointments showed a somewhat similar pattern. One infamous example is the appointment of Michael D. Brown, former head of the Arabian Horse Association, to head Federal Emergency Management Agency. Those questionable Bush appointments can be explained as anti-“big government” motivated efforts to hobble government agencies to demonstrate a self-fulfilling prophecy that government is inept. But Trump has ratcheted the pattern up several notches, both in quantity and the outrageous inappropriateness of them. One has to wonder if Trump’s picks reveal a much more sinister and dangerous effort to destroy or weaken our democratic government to the benefit and advantage of a foreign power.
John L. House is a former literature professor and attorney who practiced law in Texas and California. He lives in Santa Fe.