The News From Russia

With the chaos that has been unleashed by the Trump administration ever since the inauguration, one of the most important stories of this presidency has been relegated to the back burner – Russia’s involvement in getting this president elected.

When we left this story, it was clear that Russia had been involved in hacking the systems of both campaigns and individuals in a direct attempt to influence the election in Trump’s favor. The only remaining question was whether or not they did so in cooperation with his campaign. So far, we’ve heard nothing new on that front.

But there are a couple of developments worth noting. First of all, there seems to be a bit of a purge going on in Russia with those who might have been involved in giving information about the hacking to the U.S.

Ever since American intelligence agencies accused Russia of trying to influence the American election, there have been questions about the proof they had to support the accusation.

But the news from Moscow may explain how the agencies could be so certain that it was the Russians who hacked the email of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Two Russian intelligence officers who worked on cyberoperations and a Russian computer security expert have been arrested and charged with treason for providing information to the United States, according to multiple Russian news reports.

Perhaps even more significant is that the situation in Ukraine is escalating.

With temperatures as low as minus-4 , what Ukrainian officials described as Grad rockets and 152mm artillery shells have rained down for days on the city of Avdiivka, an industrial hub built around a sprawling coking plant that has hosted a grinding standoff in this three-year-old conflict. Ukrainian forces, who recaptured the town in 2014, have suffered high casualties in the latest spate of violence: eight dead and 26 others wounded in two days. Separatist forces said that two of their fighters had died and six had been wounded in the fighting…

“Today for the first time in days Grad rocket launchers and heavy artillery were used against the civilian population and our units,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said during a meeting with security officials Tuesday. “The shelling is massive.”

The situation has grown so dire that Ukrainian authorities have announced an evacuation of Avdiivka, the first of the city during the conflict.

Beyond being a clear sign that Putin is once again flexing his muscles in Ukraine, these attacks are telling because of the complete radio silence on them from the Trump White House. For example, in a briefing today National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had some tough words for Iran on their reported testing of ballistic missiles, and yet he made no mention of this renewed violence in Ukraine. Unless otherwise noted, it appears that the Trump administration is giving Putin a pass on this recent escalation – which is telling.

On a final note, take a guess at who is being described here:

He hurled splenetic attacks against the culturally decadent, spiritually desiccated “Euro-Atlantic.” He warned against the fetishization of tolerance and diversity. He described the West as “infertile and genderless”…“We can see how many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their roots, including the Christian values that constitute the basis of Western civilization,” he said at a conference in 2013. “They are denying moral principles and all traditional identities: national, cultural, religious, and even sexual … They are implementing policies that equate large families with same-sex partnerships, belief in God with the belief in Satan.” By succumbing to secularism, he noted on another occasion, the West was trending toward “chaotic darkness” and a “return to a primitive state.”

No, the author is not describing Trump, Bannon, Buchanan or any other right-wing Republican. That is taken from Frank Foer’s article titled, “It’s Putin’s World.” Here’s the irony that is important to grasp:

Putin has inverted the Cold War narrative. Back in Soviet times, the West was the enemy of godlessness. Today, it’s the Russian leader who seeks to snuff out that supposed threat.

It’s interesting that in this formulation, tolerance and compassion for others is now the enemy of godlessness. That is the lie that Putin and Trump are trying to sell to the world.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.