Putin’s View of the 2016 US Presidential Election

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A recent development in the 2016 US presidential election was the recent Russian hacking of Democratic National Committee email servers. The timing of the hacking and release by WikiLeaks is not a coincidence and is a Russian attempt at influencing the American electoral process. If you asked Donald Trump about any financial or political ties he or his campaign staff have with Russia, he would probably tell you that question is a deflection from the real issue, the recently hacked DNC email server. What he would not say is that his current campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was once a political advisor to the former pro-Russian Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych. Why does this all matter? Why does it seem Vladimir Putin wants Donald Trump in the White House?

Well, Russia has been very visible in its quest to influence western and eastern European elections by funding right-wing parties in various countries including France’s National Front. Right-wing nationalism and populism is rampant in western Europe and has spread into the US with the GOP’s nomination of Donald Trump. The common thread between most, if not all, of these nationalist platforms, is decentralization from global politics and the global economy. Pro-trade and pro-interdependence politicians, such as Hillary Clinton, are for foreign and economic policies that stand in the way of Russia’s domestic and foreign interests. A right-wing protectionist nominee in the US like Mr. Trump is a blessing for President Putin as a Trump administration would be far less concerned with Russian domestic and Eurasian politics and would, according to statements from Mr. Trump, have the US retreat from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a win for Putin’s Russia. This potential political reality would give Russia, and for that matter, China, the ability to fill the vacuum in areas such as security and trade (more on this in my next blog!).

Historically, Republican presidential nominees have been extremely hawkish vis-a-vis relations with Russia. After all, it was President Reagan, a GOP demigod, who oversaw the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war. In direct contrast to the party’s traditional platform, Mr. Trump has been very vocal about his willingness to turn a blind eye toward Russian affairs and about his admiration for authoritarian leaders including President Putin. Mr. Trump has even gone on as far as to state that he “…hope(s) you [Russia] are able to find the 30,000 [Clinton] emails that are missing…” I believe that would be the first time in US history that a presidential nominee hoped for the Russian’s  to gain access to Department of State electronic documents.

PHOTO: May 13th, 2016: Vilnius, Lithuania (PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)

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