Hillary’s ‘Russia card’ fails to convince

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Geopolitical notes from India

M D Nalapat

SPEAKER of the US House of Representatives Paul Ryan seems from his recent actions to be among the overwhelming majority of politicians who have a single objective : their own progress in politics and in other fields. At a time when his own Republican Party nominee Donald John Trump was closing in on Hillary Clinton in the polls, Ryan sought to fatally weaken the Trump campaign by declaring that he was opposed to the party’s Presidential nominee. Had he whispered this change of mind to his wife in private, and used the anonymity of voting to cast his vote for Hillary Clinton, many within the Republican Party may have even sympathised with Ryan.
The front line of Hillary Clinton’s party is united in working for her, so much so that the Democratic Party candidate is able to order President Barack Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama to visit those states where her campaign staff believe that reinforcement is needed. Their visits are given huge dollops of publicity by the media simply because of the posts they hold for the next two months. In addition, hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent by the Clinton campaign to portray Donald Trump as unsuitable for the most important job in the world, even more so than the second most consequential post, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. The Clinton campaign has been given significant traction by a friendly media, with CNN, ABS, NBC as well as key newspapers acting as cheerleaders for the Democratic Party candidate and competing with each other to pour abuse on Donald Trump.
It must be admitted that the Clinton spin is rendered more effective by the clumsy response of the Trump campaign to them. Not once has Donald Trump pointed out, for instance, that it would be a simple matter for Huma Abedin to release her own emails rather than demand that the FBI do so, while being fully aware that this will not happen before the elections take place. The most ludicrous allegation is that Donald Trump is in some way beholden to Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Republic. Apart from those already opposed to the Republican nominee, few will believe such a nonsensical charge. Had Donald Trump been a foreign agent, the CIA, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security would have stepped in to brief the voting public in the US about this. They would certainly not have kept silent about a “foreign agent” being in competition to lead government of their country.
Certainly some within the Trump camp – or who were there in the past – have been involved in business dealings with Russian entities, but so has John Podesta (the Clinton campaign chairman) and Bill Clinton himself, who has accepted speaking fees from entities linked to Moscow, as indeed he has from others linked to numerous countries, including some in the subcontinent. The effort to link Trump to Putin has thus far had little impact, in large part because today’s Russia is far from the USSR before Mikhail Gorbachev took over and began the Gorbachev-Yeltsin era of Moscow acting as a poodle of Washington, a status that got briefly (albeit in a diluted manner) revived when Dmitry Medvedev was elected President because of the backing of Vladimir Putin. However, the former KGB operative is a nationalist through and through, and has been following a Russia First policy during much of the time that he has been Head of State, especially during his second innings in the job.
Of course, it is becoming more apparent that Hillary Clinton (or her advisors) are setting course for a limited conflict with Russia. This, they calculate, will achieve two goals (a) weaken Russia’s global standing, especially in the Mideast and (b) serve as a lesson to the more powerful rival of NATO, China, as to the consequences of going against its diktat the Way Xi Jinping has in the nearly four years that he has thus far led the Peoples Republic of China. The likely theatres for such a conflict include the East and South China seas and Middle East, with Taiwan straits figuring behind these two in extent of probability of a conflict involving air and sea power but not land forces, in view of NATO’s repeated missteps in ground warfare. Such a “Clinton’s War” would be a hugely disruptive exercise on global economy, and is likely to have consequences beyond those that have been calculated by its protagonists.
In the 1939-45 war, Adolf Hitler was assured by the foreign policy experts that he consulted that it was safe to go to war against Poland in 1939, as neither the UK or France were likely to take the step of declaring war on Germany as a consequence. However, within days of the brutal invasion of that country by Hitler, both London and Paris declared war on Berlin, although subsequently doing little to contain the German war machine until the next year, when it invaded and occupied France and much of West Europe. The next year, Hitler made one of the three mistakes which cost him the war, which was to invade USSR.
The other two mistakes were to go slow on the development of the atomic bomb and its delivery systems until 1943, and to commit genocide against the Jewish community, which had the highest per capita brainpower in Germany and which had played a significant part in ensuring with complete (if somewhat misplaced) patriotism that Germany lasted nearly five years against its powerful foes during 1914-19 before surrendering. For the Clintons as for Trump, winning is everything. For the Democratic Party candidate, even implicitly accusing the security services of the US of conniving with Moscow against her is worthwhile in the cause of the couple winning the White House for a third time. Soon, the ballot box will reveal whether the smear has worked or has failed to stop Donald Trump in his march towards the Oval Office.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.