There’s a recent warming to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the ex-KGB agent from the Soviet Union who stood against pro-democracy demonstrators in the waning days of the USSR.  Now he’s looking to undo economic sanctions imposed several years ago which have frozen his territorial conquests.  Ending the sanctions will embolden this ex-Communist leader to not only remake the Soviet empire of Cold War days, but to do something his former masters couldn’t do: destroy the NATO alliance that stood up to the USSR, and America’s freedoms if they can.

Vladimir Putin - Caricature by DonkeyHotey In President George W. Bush’s final year of office, Russia attacked the Republic of Georgia, taking territory away from our former ally.  A Georgian student of mine who served to help evacuate the wounded documented the horrors from this invasion.  The United States did not respond to this aggression very effectively.  I know it was a bad year (elections, The Great Recession, etc.), but letting Putin get away with his actions would come back to haunt us.

After the Ukrainian people ousted their corrupt pro-Russian dictator who had fixed elections and attacked peaceful demonstrators, Putin responded by annexing The Crimea from Ukraine and backing pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine (who also shot down a Malaysian airliner that flew over the country).  The United States, Canada and the European Union responded with stinging sanctions that continue to plague the Russian economy today.

Evidence shows that the Russian economy lost nearly half its value, falling by nearly a trillion in value from where it was in 2013.  Russia’s Ruble lost more than 75 percent of its value.  But it hasn’t hurt the Russian people, given that goods and services still flow across borders.  But the bank sanctions, technology sanctions, and oil sanctions, have hit the Russian rich, beholden to Putin more than the dictates of any truly free market system.

This explains why Putin and his Russian agents have sought to meddle in nearly every European election, from Brexit to the rise of populists with authoritarian streaks in both West and East Europe.  And yes, the evidence clearly shows Russia meddled as well as the United States election.  The Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by a Republican, has now concluded that not only did Putin’s regime directly interfere in the 2016 election, but will do so again in 2018 and 2020, seeing as they got away with their manipulation last time.

Democrats and liberals were duped by Russian social media accounts claiming to promote LGBT causes, Muslim, Bernie Sanders supporters, and Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein.  Republicans were fooled by social media claiming to represent Texan secession, the TEA Party, gun rights, veterans, etc.  While some Republicans are recognizing Russia’s role in controlling our politics, others remain skeptical, or even see Putin as an American ally, instead of our friends from free countries who have stood by us during the Cold War and War on Terrorism.

So let me tell you what Russians leaders really think of President Trump and the GOP.  Last year, I was invited to appear on RT, the Russian government mouthpiece, to talk about Trump’s policies on the Middle East and Turkey.  Since these are areas I agree with our president, I touted the benefits of these policies.  Imagine my surprise when the RT hosts spent all of their time trashing Trump’s strategy in the region, showing their true colors, while I defended Trump.  It was a similar story when Russian media mocked the Republican Senators who flew to Moscow on July 4 to try and find some common ground.

Russia played us all for fools in the last election, and will do so again, manipulating our ballot boxes and not just our news feeds.  Ending the sanctions will lead to more Russian military conquests, destabilizing Europe and America, while their leaders laugh at Trump, his supporters and his opponents behind our backs.  If you care for Truman’s Eisenhower’s, JFK’s, and Reagan’s legacy, don’t let these ex-Soviets succeed where they failed during the Cold War.

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Image: Vladimir Putin - Caricature by DonkeyHotey (cc/flickr).
John A. Tures

John A. Tures

John A. Tures is an Associate Professor of Political Science at LaGrange College in Georgia.  He writes about international politics, elections, sports, and the War of 1812.