In fact, things are going remarkably badly for Russia on the world stage. I submit that if you were a Russian -- let alone, if you were Vladimir Putin -- you would have very serious cause not just for concern, but for alarm.Read More
Have you had the sense recently, and particularly so since the inauguration, that the progressive movement has completely lost its mind? I mean, start with the #Resistance movement and its pointless, often violent demonstrations that couldn't be better designed to alienate everybody who is not already fully committed to radical leftism. Or consider the climate change cult, desperately committed to keeping the poor poor and driving up everybody's cost of electricity and transportation because they believe that's the way to "save the planet." But my favorite has to be this weird obsession with Russia. I can't even begin to figure out what it is about.
The New York Times has easily had several dozen articles since the election about the supposedly nefarious relationship between President Trump and/or his team and Russian officials. And I don't mean to single Pravda out particularly -- this obsession is all over the mainstream press. And it goes on day after day with stories of less and less consequence told in breathless tones like they mean something. Today (just in the last few hours -- presumably for tomorrow's print edition) we have "Kushner and Flynn Met with Russian Envoy in December, White House Says":
Michael Flynn, then Donald J. Trump’s incoming national security adviser, had a previously undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador in December to “establish a line of communication” between the new administration and the Russian government, the White House said on Thursday. . . . [T]he extent and frequency of their contacts remains unclear, and the disclosure of the meeting at Trump Tower adds to the emerging picture of how the relationship between Mr. Trump’s incoming team and Moscow was evolving to include some of the president-elect’s most trusted advisers.
Scary! Am I the only one who thinks that it would have been completely incompetent for a president-elect's transition team not to have met at some point before the inauguration with the ambassador from Russia, and for that matter with the ambassadors from 50 or more of the more consequential countries of the world?
Or consider the immediately prior big story, which was that new Attorney General Jeff Sessions had spoken with the Russian ambassador prior to the election. Pravda has a brand new editorial up on the subject, again apparently for tomorrow's edition, headline "Jeff Sessions Needs to Go." Excerpt:
In the wake of Wednesday’s revelation that Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke with Russia’s ambassador to the United States while working with the Trump campaign, despite denying those contacts during his confirmation hearings, key Republican and Democratic lawmakers are calling for him to recuse himself from overseeing any Justice Department investigation into contacts between the campaign and the Russian government. Some are even saying he needs to resign.
It’s a bombshell of a story.
Look into the "bombshell" story a little, and you find that Sessions, then a senior Senator on the Armed Services Committee, spoke on a panel put on by the Heritage Foundation in Cleveland at the time of the Republican convention. Some 50 ambassadors from different countries attended. At the end of the panel, several of the ambassadors approached the panel members to shake hands and maybe pose a question or two, in the hearing of dozens of people. Is this where Sessions somehow agreed with the Russians that they would rig the election on behalf of Trump? It seems that Sessions also had a big one telephone call with the Russian ambassador during the time of the campaign -- as well as other calls with ambassadors from about ten other countries. Hey, he was a senior member of the Armed Services Committee! Isn't that part of the job? Also, we know from the Flynn matter that the NSA recorded all of the Russian ambassador's phone calls, and will gladly leak transcripts to the Times and Washington Post if they are in the least bit embarrassing to any Trump administration official. So where's this transcript?
And these are only the latest two out of twenty or more such stories, all alleging some kind of illicit Russian involvement in somehow swinging the election to Trump. OK, suppose that the Russians wanted Trump to win, and that the Russians are the ones who hacked the Podesta emails, and that the Russians intentionally arranged with Julian Assange to leak the Podesta emails in a way to help Trump and maximize damage to the Hillary campaign. I don't think it's a given that any of those are true, let alone all of them. But suppose they are all true. Why wouldn't the Russians have done it without communicating in any way with the Trump campaign? Given that the NSA records everything, wouldn't the Russian ambassador be smart enough not to talk about any of these things explicitly on the phone? And, if there was a transcript out there somewhere where a Trump campaign official promised the Russians something in return for help in the campaign, wouldn't that transcript have been leaked by now?
And then there is the question of the geopolitical significance of Russia today. Yes, they do have an outsize military for a country of their population and GDP, and their leader likes to play bigshot. But really, this intense focus on Russia seems to me to be mostly a vestige of the old Soviet Union days. Russia does not have nearly the economy it would need to try to rebuild its empire. It's economy, such as it is, is heavily dependent on selling oil and gas to the West. Back in the 80s, the Soviet Union had more population than the United States, and pretended to have a GDP of 60% or so of ours and catching up fast. (And the CIA largely believed it.) Today:
- Russia's population is about 143 million and shrinking alarmingly. Its peak population was over 148 million back in 1995. The current population is well less than half that of the U.S. Russia's birthrate is not nearly high enough to sustain the population. Projections at the link have Russian population going down into the 130 millions by the 2030s, and into the 120 millions by the 2040s.
- Russia's GDP for 2016 was under $1.3 trillion, barely 7% of U.S. GDP. To put that in even more perspective, countries with more GDP than Russia include the likes of Brazil, India, and even South Korea! For that matter, Mexico is rapidly catching up to Russia in GDP. (Mexico's GDP for 2016 was almost $1.1 trillion.)
Really, can't the progressives come up with something better to obsess about?
UPDATE, March 5:
Meanwhile, over at Fox News, Peter Schwieizer (author of "Clinton Cash") points out that nine shareholders of a Canadian uranium company sold to the Russians donated $145 million to the Clinton Foundation. The sale required approval from the State Department when Hillary was Secretary of State. Don't worry, it's no big deal.