By Tim Donner
Ever since the losers in the 2016 election cast the blame on Russia, among many others, the experts and analysts in the chattering class have been looking for evidence of collusion between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in all the wrong places.
Not evidence of collusion
The anti-Trump coalition of strange bedfellows – leftists, their handmaidens in the elite media, neoconservatives, and other assorted Never Trump Republicans – has hammered away at the public statements – or lack thereof – from the president on Russia and Putin. They have attempted to assert that Trump’s failure or refusal to condemn the Russian strongman in broad terms constitutes de facto proof of collusion.
As usual, the Trump haters simply don’t get the man. They evaluate his presidency on what he says (or in this case, refuses to say), which drives them to drink or worse. They focus on the theatrics and sideshows and not the main event – what he has actually done. And when they do focus on his actions, they select only those which fit their predetermined narrative of Trump as a racist dictator.
For example, they focus on the supposed cruelty inherent in his zero-tolerance policy on illegal immigrants at the U.S. border, but barely report that he proposed to double the number of DACA recipients offered legal status by Barack Obama – an offer the Democrats refused. They attack him for calling out NATO partners, but fail to report that those partners have upped their ante on defense spending by $34 billion since Trump first demanded that they meet their promised obligations (so Trump announced it himself). And they actually claim Trump’s outspoken posture on NATO strengthens Russia, when his demand is for America’s allies to spend more to defend against Russia. Some logic.
And of course, they ignore or attempt to explain away his most important accomplishments, the ones most likely to animate voters in the midterm elections: the roaring economy and rosy employment picture.
So it is not the least bit surprising that the elite media refuses to examine Trump’s actions when it comes to Russia. So let’s do so here, shall we?
The bedrock of the oligarchical Russian government is an economy that is essentially a one-trick pony: energy. Oil, natural gas, and precious metals account for more than half of government revenues and almost three-quarters of Russian exports. Thus, the most effective way to cripple Russia is to drive down the price of energy. By authorizing construction of the stalled Keystone pipeline, dramatically reducing regulations, and openly criticizing Germany and other European states for their reliance on Russian energy, Trump has done exactly that. He has stepped up American competition in the energy market and challenged the once-settled notion that Europe will forever be dependent on Russia. These are hardly the actions of a president intent on propping up the Putin regime.
Given Russia’s dying empire and reliance on energy to prop up their kleptocratic system, those actions by themselves should settle the issue of whether Trump has paid back Putin for “fixing” the 2016 election. But that absurd allegation persists among those afflicted with Trump Derangement Syndrome, even after Friday’s announcement of 12 Russian spies indicted by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that included the statement that “There is no allegation in this indictment that any American citizen committed a crime. There is no allegation that the conspiracy changed the vote count or affected any election result.”
But there is ample additional evidence that Trump has hardly been playing footsie with Putin. Airstrikes early in Trump’s term killed or injured hundreds of Russian mercenaries and dozens of Russian troops in Syria. He successfully pushed Congress for a big increase in defense spending, and more than tripled defense initiatives to deter Russian aggression in Europe. He ordered lethal military aid to Ukraine to defend against further Russian aggression and expansionism. He shuttered two Russian consulates, multiple diplomatic annexes, and expelled 60 diplomats. This month, he sanctioned nearly 40 oligarchs, the businesses they own or control, and numerous Russian officials. He forced the U.S.-based subsidiaries of Russian state-backed propaganda outlets RT and Sputnik to register as foreign agents. He targeted Russia with sanctions over North Korea, Iran, and Ukraine.
Anyone who is able to remove their partisan blinders can see that Trump is hardly in bed with the Russian president. And they can also see that Putin is a man with whom Trump has always believed he could do business. And thus, the American president is not given to publicly condemning the Russian president.
So what can Trump do to convince the haters that he did not collude with Putin in 2016? Sadly, nothing. They demand that we trust them rather than our own lying eyes. But while everyone is entitled to their own opinions, they are not similarly entitled to their own facts. And on the left these days, especially when it comes to the economy, employment – and Russia – facts are particularly stubborn things.