If Donald Trump wins the presidency on Nov. 8th, his victory would be celebrated as much in the Kremlin as in Trump Tower. An alliance between Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin that blossomed on the campaign trail could become a full working partnership between the Russian strongman and the American wanna-be.
While there are many potential policies of a Trump Administration that would have distressing effects – 25 million people losing their health insurance, for example – for PutinTrump.org, the biggest concerns center around what a Putin-Trump world might look like starting in January 2017. It is not too far-fetched to suppose that a President Trump and Russian President Putin will continue their mutual praise – an unwavering part of the recent campaign. So, what could this relationship mean for national security and traditional U.S. alliances?
Based on Trump’s and Putin’s words and actions, these could be the scary realities of a Putin-Trump world. No one voting for Trump can say they were not warned.
A weakened NATO alliance between U.S. and traditional allies: Trump has called NATO obsolete and implied that if its members don’t pay more for their own defense, the U.S. will not defend them from attack. This is in direct conflict with the NATO charter. NATO has been the lynchpin of American foreign policy since the end of World War II, and is detested by Putin, who would like nothing better than see the alliance collapse. Since 2008, Russia has moved troops into the former Soviet republics of Georgia and the Ukraine, and now Russia is making military moves that look like preparations to attack the small, independent Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania – all members of NATO. A President Trump, based on his statements of support for Putin, is unlikely to commit U.S. troops for the Baltic States’ defense, undermining NATO’s central tenet that an attack against one member is considered an attack against all. NATO would be unlikely to survive such a demonstration of its own futility.
The NATO alliance has kept peace among the great powers in Europe for 70 years, warding off most Russian aggression. Without a robust NATO, an expansionist Russia may be emboldened to act even more aggressively. Without the United States’ protection, some allies may be more likely to seek accommodation with such a powerful state on the march – a recipe for “peace in our time” but paving the way for more war in the future.
No sanctions for Ukraine invasion, and a freer hand for Russia worldwide: On the campaign trail, Trump has said he sees no need for sanctions against Russia for its 2014 invasion and takeover of the Crimea region. Without U.S. leadership, America’s European allies are not likely to keep the sanctions on their own – giving Putin a freer hand for Russian expansionism, as well as more money flowing into Russia. In the interest of what Trump has called “getting along” with Russia, there could there be a dramatic U-turn in other U.S foreign policies, aligning the U.S. more with Russia in the Middle East, as well? In Syria, that might mean joining Russia in effectively supporting the Assad regime, which has been attacking civilians in a brutal war. It is not hard to picture a crumbling of American alliances and policies around the world that have been in place for decades.
More nuclear weapons: As President, Trump has said he would end the Iran nuclear agreement, which will have the effect of immediately allowing Iran to resume its nuclear program, adding greater instability to the already unstable Middle East. Trump has also called on Japan and South Korea to get their own nuclear weapons, which could lead to greater global proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Propaganda as policy: Donald Trump’s rhetoric has regularly repeated the same lines spouted by Russian propagandists:
None of these statements is true. Why should we think a President Trump would stop spouting false Russian propaganda once elected?
Donald Trump and his aides have clearly adopted the disorienting propaganda technique wielded by Putin that was characterized as a “firehose of falsehoods” in a recent RAND Corporation study. Throughout his campaign Trump has consistently repeated known lies and half-truths, from the charge that Obama was not born in the United States to the claim that most Mexican immigrants are rapists and thieves. This overwhelming deluge of misinformation leaves many unable to discern fact from fiction – and even the most robust fact-checking by the media is never able to fully catch up with the lie-a-minute flood that Trump has unleashed in his campaign.
A U.S. administration that employs similar propaganda techniques would undermine democratic governance and institutions that depend on facts – and dialogue and policies based on those facts. The overall effect would be to undermine public trust in all American governments and institutions, as well as the media reporting on them.
Foreign election interference becomes the norm: Trump has never condemned Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee and interference in U.S. electoral politics, even when informed about it by top-ranking intelligence officials. Like propaganda campaigns, hacking and sabotaging the internet infrastructure could undermine faith in American democracy by compromising independent American elections and calling into question the results. Many believe that this has been Putin’s goal in interfering in this election all along.
Authoritarian rule: Trump has threatened to jail his political opponent, to sue women who accuse him of sexual assault, to limit reporters’ access to him and his events, and to change libel laws to make it easier to punish news organizations that report facts about him that he doesn’t like. These are the policies of someone, like Putin, who wants to control his constituency rather than protect a democracy.
If American voters elect a President Trump on Tuesday, this nation will have set itself on a dangerous path – one that would embolden Russian expansionism and erode American strength and cooperation among allies around the world. With all these real concerns about national security and the U.S. position in the world, the biggest danger is at home: This country would find its cherished democratic values weakened. In this election, American democracy really is on the line.
(Sources noted inline. Photo by Gage Skidmore)
It’s decision time – time to stop talking and start voting. Prominent conservatives around the country may admit that they wish for a viable third option, but their concerns about national security – and their belief that Republican Donald Trump is a threat to American democracy – are driving them to cast their votes for Hillary Clinton.
Here are a few notable conservatives – and two liberal columnists speaking directly to conservative voters – explaining why they believe Clinton is the right choice for president on Nov. 8.
DAVID FRUM, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and a senior editor at The Atlantic:
“Yes, I fear Clinton’s grudge-holding. Should I fear it so much that I rally to a candidate who has already explicitly promised to deploy antitrust and libel law against his critics and opponents? Who incited violence at his rallies? Who ejects reporters from his events if he objects to their coverage? Who told a huge audience in Australia that his top life advice was: “Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it”? Who idealizes Vladimir Putin, Saddam Hussein, and the butchers of Tiananmen as strong leaders to be admired and emulated? …
I have no illusions about Hillary Clinton. I expect policies that will seem to me at best counter-productive, at worst actively harmful. …
But she is a patriot. She will uphold the sovereignty and independence of the United States. She will defend allies. She will execute the laws with reasonable impartiality. …”
DOROTHY RABINOVITZ, member of Wall Street Journal editorial board:
“The end of the election is now in sight. Some among the anti-Hillary brigades have decided, in deference to their exquisite sensibilities, to stay at home on Election Day, rather than vote for Mrs. Clinton. But most Americans will soon make their choice. It will be either Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton – experienced, forward-looking, indomitably determined and eminently sane. Her election alone is what stands between the American nation and the reign of the most unstable, proudly uninformed, psychologically unfit president ever to enter the White House.”
THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC EDITORIAL BOARD, which had never endorsed a Democrat for president in its 126-year history:
“… Despite her flaws, Clinton is the superior choice.
She does not casually say things that embolden our adversaries and frighten our allies. Her approach to governance is mature, confident and rational.
That cannot be said of her opponent.
Clinton retains her composure under pressure. She’s tough. She doesn’t back down.
Trump responds to criticism with the petulance of verbal spit wads.
That’s beneath our national dignity.”
JAMES K. GLASSMAN, under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs under President George W. Bush:
“I have voted for every Republican nominee for president since 1980, but I will not this time. Mr. Trump’s appalling temperament renders him unfit to be president, and his grotesque policy formulations mock the principles of liberty and respect for the individual that have been the foundation of the Republican Party since Abraham Lincoln. …
I’m voting for Mrs. Clinton because, despite her deficiencies, she will make a better president. But I have another reason. Defeating Mr. Trump soundly will help save the Republican Party. If he wins, a party built on freedom and internationalism will become entrenched as a party of authoritarianism and isolation, which means that within a few years it will atrophy and die.”
JOHN STUBBS, senior advisor for U.S. Trade Representative under President George W. Bush:
“Republicans can either allow Trump to rebrand the GOP as unstable, xenophobic and crude, or they can regain control of their party. It may mean losing this election, but if they want a principled, rational agenda that reflects American values and promotes liberty, prosperity and security, there is no other choice: Writing in or staying home puts Republican control of the Senate at risk, and a libertarian protest vote could toss the election to Trump.
The last remaining option is an extreme option: Vote for Hillary Clinton. If the millions of #NeverTrump Republicans could bring themselves to make the leap to Clinton, she may even meet them in the middle.”
THOMAS FRIEDMAN, columnist for The New York Times:
“Yes, Hillary Clinton is a flawed leader — but in the way so many presidents were. We know her flaws: She has a weakness for secrecy, occasionally fudges truths, has fawning aides and a husband who lacks discipline when it comes to moneymaking and women. But she is not indecent, and that is an important distinction. And she’s studious, has sought out people of substance on every issue and has taken the job of running for president seriously.
Trump is not only a flawed politician, he’s an indecent human being. He’s boasted of assaulting women — prompting 11 to come forward to testify that he did just that to them; his defense is that he could not have assaulted these women because they weren’t pretty enough. …
I understand why many Trump supporters have lost faith in Washington and want to just “shake things up.” When you shake things up with a studied plan and a clear idea of where you want to get to, you can open new futures. But when you shake things up, guided by one-liners and no moral compass, you can cause enormous instability and systemic vertigo.”
TIMOTHY EGAN, opinion writer for The New York Times:
“Vice President Joe Biden has made it one of his final missions to ensure that Democrats don’t forget those living in places like his hometown, Scranton, Pa. One solution is to put people to work on roads, bridges, airports and other “big stuff.” Hillary Clinton has at least put forth a $275 billion infrastructure jobs plan. Trump promises nothing more than a slogan on a silly hat and a pipe dream of a plan with no way to pay for it.”
(Photo by Lorie Shaull)
Their words reveal their anguish. “The Republican Party is another family to me.” And “I’m an American before I’m a Republican.” “I can’t look my children in the eye and tell them I voted for Donald Trump.” And finally: “This is not my party.”
They are lifelong Republicans – stalwart conservative leaders who have devoted their careers to the GOP. One after another, just a few to start, and now dozens. They have wrestled with their decisions and finally have declared they cannot vote for their party’s nominee. Some will vote for Hillary Clinton; others will look for a third-party or write-in option. But they have all stated publicly they will not cast votes for Trump.
But a long list of Republicans also are convinced that Trump is a grave national security risk – a concern heightened by his praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his demonstrated ignorance about global-security threats such as Russia’s invasion of Crimea, and its military intervention on behalf of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
Here are a few of these foreign-policy-minded conservatives, saying in their own words why they can’t vote for Trump:
Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush:
“The only way you can be comfortable about Trump’s foreign policy, is to think he doesn’t really mean anything he says. That’s a pretty uncomfortable place to be in. Our security depends on having good relationships with our allies. Trump mainly shows contempt for them. And he seems to be unconcerned about the Russian aggression in Ukraine. By doing this he tells them that they can go ahead and do what they are doing. That is dangerous.”
Source: Der Spiegel
Donald Gregg, national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush:
“We now have a person at the top of the Republican ticket who I believe is dangerous, doesn’t understand the complex world we live in, doesn’t care to, and is without any moral or international philosophy.”
Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush:
“Trump’s sense of loyalties are misplaced. Some of our NATO allies sent troops overseas, at the same time he is defending Russia and trying to dismiss what is widely acknowledged to be Russian intrusions into the databases of our political parties and political figures.”
Retired Virginia Sen. John Warner, former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and World War II veteran:
In response to some of Trump’s comments on the military: “We have today the strongest military in the world. No one can compare with us. No one should have the audacity to stand up and degrade the purple heart … or talk about the military being in a state of disaster. That’s wrong. … You don’t pull up a quick text, like ‘National Security for Dummies.’ That book hasn’t been published.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina:
“I also cannot in good conscience support Donald Trump because I do not believe he is a reliable Republican conservative nor has he displayed the judgment and temperament to serve as commander in chief.”
Source: The Hill
Mitt Romney, Republican nominee for president in 2012, former governor of Massachusetts:
”Donald Trump says he admires Vladimir Putin, while he has called George W. Bush a liar. That is a twisted example of evil trumping good.”
“I wanted my grandkids to see that I simply couldn’t ignore what Mr. Trump was saying and doing, which revealed a character and temperament unfit for the leader of the free world.”
Source: Wall Street Journal (paywall)
Adam Kinzinger, Illinois representative and former Air Force pilot:
“I’m a Republican because I believe that Republicanism is the best way to defend the United States of America. … [Trump] throws all of these Republican principles on their head.”
Response to Trump’s comments on NATO: “It’s utterly disastrous. And you have allies right now, I mean I have friends that, you know, serve in parliament in places like Estonia, that every day worry about the Russians deciding that this is the time to reannex and take them back. And comments like this are not only ill-informed, they’re dangerous.”
Response to Trump’s comments on the military: “I call it a narcissistic foreign policy from Donald Trump, and it’s the idea that, you know, the world needs us. If we’re going to be in Korea or we’re going to have troops in Germany, they need to pay us for this. As a military soldier, a pilot, I’m offended by the idea that I’m some kind of a protection racket that has to be paid to protect our allies, or I’m some kind of a mercenary force.”
Robert Gates, CIA Director under President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of Defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama:
“The only thing longer than the list of hostile Russian actions abroad is the list of repressive actions inside Russia to stifle dissent and strengthen Mr. Putin’s security services-run state. Mr. Putin will continue to behave aggressively until confronted and stopped. … neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Trump has expressed any views on how they would deal with Mr. Putin (although Mr. Trump’s expressions of admiration for the man and his authoritarian regime are naive and irresponsible). …
At least on national security, I believe Mr. Trump is beyond repair. He is stubbornly uninformed about the world and how to lead our country and government, and temperamentally unsuited to lead our men and women in uniform. He is unqualified and unfit to be commander-in-chief.”
Source: Wall Street Journal (paywall)
George Will: Conservative pundit for 40 years
Responding to Trump’s comments indicating he was apparently unaware of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: “It is, surely, somewhat noteworthy that someone aspiring to be this nation’s commander in chief has somehow not noticed the fact that for two years now a sovereign European nation has been being dismembered.”
Source: The Washington Post
Excerpt from a letter signed by 50 Republican national-security advisers who served under administrations from Presidents Richard Nixon to George W. Bush.
“From a foreign policy perspective, Donald Trump is not qualified to be President and Commander-in-Chief. Indeed, we are convinced that he would be a dangerous President and would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.
Most fundamentally, Mr. Trump lacks the character, values, and experience to be President. He weakens U.S. moral authority as the leader of the free world. …
In addition, Mr. Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he has little understanding of America’s vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances, and the democratic values on which U.S. foreign policy must be based. At the same time, he persistently compliments our adversaries and threatens our allies and friends.”
Source: The New York Times
Max Boot, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations:
“I have been a Republican as long as I can remember. Joining the Grand Old Party seemed like a natural choice for someone like me who fled the Soviet Union as a boy and came to Los Angeles with his mother and grandmother in 1976. …
There has never been a major party nominee in U.S. history as unqualified for the presidency. The risk of Trump winning, however remote, represents the biggest national security threat that the United States faces today.”
Source: Los Angeles Times
(Photo: Creative Commons)
“Securing America,” one of the scheduled topics in tonight’s presidential-candidate debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, is also one of the top concerns for PutinTrump.org. We expect that either moderator Lester Holt or the candidates themselves will raise two key issues under this theme – and the responses will be worlds apart.
Here’s what we’re looking for, and the kinds of answers we are likely to hear:
1) Emails, cyber crime and the election. While we expect that questions around Clinton’s emails and servers during her time as Secretary of State will be raised in the debate, the security questions around her emails have already been vetted by Congress and the FBI, and no charges were filed. A far more serious risk should be discussed tonight: the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s email system, as well as electoral systems in Arizona and Illinois.
The FBI is just beginning to investigate the Russian hacking and subsequent leaks of stolen emails from the DNC and officials such as former Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Colin Powell. It is believed that this unprecedented Russian interference into the U.S election is on behalf of Trump. The FBI has high confidence that Russia is behind the stolen emails.
Trump has explicitly welcomed hacking by a foreign state. According to the New York Times, Trump said “he hoped Russian intelligence services had successfully hacked Hillary Clinton’s email, and encouraged them to publish whatever they may have stolen, essentially urging a foreign adversary to conduct cyber espionage against a former secretary of state.” Trump has suggested that additional hacked email revelations will emerge before the Nov. 8 election.
During the debate, Trump will either repeat his pro-hacking statements or try to deny what he said and distance himself from his previous often-repeated statements in praise of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and inviting more hacking. In that case, he makes a clear flip-flop on his position. No matter his response, Trump’s position on Russian interference in the U.S. election, as well as his flattery of Putin, raise critical national security questions, and moderator Holt should hold Trump to account.
For Clinton’s part, she has called Russian interference in U.S. elections “a threat from an adversarial foreign power.” Expect her to stay firm to this position in the debate: Cyber espionage and Russian hacking has no place in the U.S. election and should be appalling for all citizens.
2) NATO. We agree with The New York Times, which says Trump should be asked about NATO:
“The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is the alliance between the United States and 27 other countries, including the three Baltic States: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Article 5 of its charter explicitly states that an attack on one member should be considered an attack on all. You have praised President Vladimir V. Putin, vowing to fashion better relations with Russia. But if, as he did in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, Mr. Putin intervened militarily in one of the Baltic States, would you favor invoking NATO’s Article 5 and sending forces to counter Russia?”
Trump has implied that he might not honor the long-standing U.S. commitment to NATO members. And he has said his response to a possible Baltic invasion by Russia won’t be an automatic “we’ll protect you.” Instead, Trump’s actions would depend on whether or not the NATO member is current on its defense spending commitments. Such an approach would cripple speedy action by the NATO alliance, much to the delight of Putin.
Trump will either have to backtrack, and finally support NATO – a clear flip-flop – or stick with his position along lines that favor Putin and Russia’s national interests.
Clinton has consistently said the U.S. should honor its commitment to NATO members. NATO came to the aid of the United States after 9/11, after all. Such a clear posture of deterrence has largely kept the peace in Europe and the alliance strong for nearly 70 years.
Tonight, look for Trump is likely to resort to outright denials of his previous statements or to flip his positions entirely. Either way, where does Trump really stand on the issues that most impact U.S. security? What would he actually do in office? In terms of the most important questions around “Securing America,” voters can’t trust anything he says.
In a letter released Aug. 8, 50 senior Republican national security officials declared Donald Trump “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president and “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.” The letter is signed by Michael Hayden, a former director of both the CIA and National Security Agency; John Negroponte, a former director of national intelligence and former deputy secretary of state; Robert Zoellick, a former deputy secretary of state; and two former secretaries of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff. Among the signatories, some reportedly will vote for Hillary Clinton, and some say they will not vote – “but all agree Trump is not qualified and would be dangerous.” The New York Times summarizes the letter:
The letter says Mr. Trump would weaken the United States’ moral authority and questions his knowledge of and belief in the Constitution. It says he has “demonstrated repeatedly that he has little understanding” of the nation’s “vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances and the democratic values” on which American policy should be based. And it laments that “Mr. Trump has shown no interest in educating himself.”
“None of us will vote for Donald Trump,” the letter states, though it notes later that many Americans “have doubts about Hillary Clinton, as do many of us.”
Source: The New York Times
One thing intelligence operatives, foreign and domestic, can agree on: Vladimir Putin is exercising his KGB skillset to manipulate Trump for Russia’s interests.
“[Putin] played this perfectly, right? He saw that Donald Trump wanted to be complemented. He complimented him. That led Donald Trump to then compliment Vladimir Putin and to defend Vladimir Putin’s actions in a number of places around the world. And Donald Trump didn’t even understand, right, that Putin was playing him. Mr. Trump has also taken policy positions consistent with Russian, not American, interests — endorsing Russian espionage against the United States, supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea and giving a green light to a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States.” – Former CIA Acting Director, Michael Morell
Alexander Konovalov, president of the Moscow-based Institute for Strategic Assessments, has said Putin, “understands that Clinton is a real politician, and it would be more difficult to get her to believe what he wants.”
Sources: NBC News | USA Today