The state of U.S. – Russian relations is more vague, unclear and unpredictable than ever before. The Republican party, for decades, has held their traditional view that Russia is the enemy, scrutinizing their actions and having suspicion. But, in this drastic new political climate, President Donald Trump’s victory is vastly transforming the way Americans deal with Russia. In his embarrassing affability with Putin, Trump has given Russia, a country that has been ruled by nefarious dictators in the past, a welcoming embrace. Rather than acting on foreign policies in accordance to those of our American allies, Trump is resisting reason and advocating for the success of like-minded dictatorial leaders. Republicans are recently more amicable towards Vladimir Putin’s regime, and Democrats more hostile, than at any point in recent years. This swift change in mindset is a testament to just how powerfully partisan politics shapes the way Americans see the world.
In recent days, the number of revelations concerning fraudulent connections between Trump and Russia have expanded. Communication scandals between key Trump aides and Russian officials prior to the President’s inauguration continue to emerge as tensions soar between both political parties. Depending on whom you ask, Russian influence can signify nothing, or it can represent a scandal so huge it will lead to the president’s impeachment. So far, it’s unclear which side is right, but the truth may lie somewhere in-between the two extremes. The Trump administration has maintained its argument that contact between his campaign and Russia was inconsequential and nonexistent, a claim having been continuously proven untrue. Through a complex cyber and propaganda campaign authorized by Putin, Russia actively tried to help Trump beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the election, a wise move for undermining America’s global influence. We know multiple members of Trump’s campaign have illegitimately met with Russian officials whose goal was aiding Trump in the election. If there’s any hard evidence of direct collusion between the president and Russia, it is yet to be released.
One of the most underrated aspects of the all-consuming Russia frenzy is Trump’s platform on the U.S.’s arming of Ukraine. The war between Russia and Ukraine began in 2014 over a trade agreement, but it has transformed into the one of the bloodiest conflicts in Europe since the early 1990s. After Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, world leaders installed a shaky peace deal in 2015. But, violence continues in the conflict zone of eastern Ukraine, kicking 2017 off with an outburst of fighting. The Trump campaign worked to make sure the Republican platform would not give weapons to Ukraine in defense against Russian and rebel forces. Former President Obama supplied aid to Ukraine including drones, radar, first-aid kits, night vision and communications gear as part of his strategy to provide non-lethal military assistance, while focusing on sanctions and diplomacy to end the war. Since Trump’s election, renewed violence is flaring between Moscow-backed rebels in Ukraine, and Ukraine government forces. This under-reported war has caused the highest casualty rate in the area since 2015, and has cut power and water off to thousands of civilians on both sides of the war. Russia is testing President Trump with a surge of violence in Eastern Ukraine, seeing if he will defy Ukraine the aid, and support Russia in its attacks.
A presidential administration meeting with foreign leaders is far from unusual, but in this context, it is. A president having illegitimate ties with a high-risk ally is an immense conflict of interest, and it’s imperative U.S. citizens understand there has never been such a level of foreign interference with American democracy in modern political history. We must be warned that Russian influence in the election is only the tip of the iceberg.