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Fri 7 May 2021

The Russian threat has not dissipated now that Donald Trump has left the White House, says Paul Niland

The United States has been afflicted by years of internal hostility and division – marred by a gory range of conspiracy theories peddled by President Donald Trump.

In contrast, new President Joe Biden has vowed to base his decisions on facts and science.

Yet, the first fact Biden must take into account is this: if your enemy believes it is at war with you – whether or not that war is openly declared – you are de facto in a state of war.

This is particularly relevant in the case of Russia. Granted, Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t create the problems in US society that were so greatly magnified during the Trump era – they are America’s own deep-seated and self-constructed issues. But, by helping to nudge Trump into office, Putin found a potent way to worsen America’s problems.

Through his words and actions, Trump showed that he was at the very least in awe of Putin, and more likely indebted to him as well. Eschewing history, the President of the United States was regularly praiseworthy of the Russian autocrat – all while launching a campaign of sabotage against forces hostile to Putin, namely the EU and NATO.

The antithesis of Trump, it is likely that America is about to get tough on Russia under Biden. And not before time. 


The Threat Within

Former President Barack Obama downplayed the threat from Russia, referring to the country as a gas station, as well as a regional not a global threat. While it is true that the Russian economy is dependent on just one commodity – hydrocarbons – Putin’s military posturing in Ukraine and Syria shows that he is not just a small-town Mafia boss.

The Russian President has created information weapons that have amplified the menace of his tin pot dictatorship. On this front, Russia and the United States are already at war – and Biden should be aware of what he is dealing with.

For starters, Putin’s operation ruthlessly exploits social, racial and cultural divisions – carving up American society into competing factions using social media, chat boards and video sites.

These narratives have been actively stoked by Trump and his supporters – playing into Putin’s hands. When Trump and his enablers told their mobs that there’s going to be “no country left” if their political opponents came to office, they motivated thousands of people to storm the seat of American democracy – something beyond Putin’s wildest dreams.

Of course, this collaboration has gone further than Trump acting as an accidental bag carrier for Putin’s ambitions. The interactions between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign have been well documented – not least emails between Donald Trump Junior and persons in Russia stating that they wanted to pass “information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton]”.

They stated in black and white that this was “part of Russia and its Government’s support for Mr. Trump”. What followed that was a flurried exchange, with Trump’s oldest son exclaiming “I love it!” and setting up a meeting to discuss this further – an explicit offer and acceptance of Russian assistance. 

The Trump camp evidently knew that it was doing something wrong, as it tried to cover it up. At first, there was a blanket denial that anything like this had taken place. Then, when the press found out about the meeting in Trump Tower – from which shortly thereafter began a series of as yet unexplained data exchanges with an address in Moscow – it claimed that the meeting was mostly about the adoption of Russian orphans by American families.

Anybody who has any knowledge of this topic – for example, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, indebted to Russian oligarchs – knows that the ban on American families adopting Russian orphans was part of Putin’s response to the US targeting Russian human rights abusers with sanctions. A discussion about adoptions is a discussion about sanctions relief for Russia. That was the price that was being asked of the Trump camp for Russia’s help.

The second impeachment trial faced by Trump, a single article of inciting an insurrection, should be an open-and-shut case – with the former President very much guilty. But so too should the first impeachment have been, after he was accused of pressuring the Ukrainian President to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who was doing business in the country. The evidence was overwhelming of Trump’s wrongdoing.

Indeed, it is worth noting that the Ukrainian assets who offered to help Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani in investigating Hunter Biden have recently been deemed to be Russian assets – citizens of Ukraine suspected of being active agents of Putin’s security services.

Putin is evidently an enemy of the United States, and new President Joe Biden. But the Democrat should also be wary of the enemy within – those who have consciously and sub-consciously colluded with Russian interests over the past five years, who are very openly furthering Putin’s cause. And the infrastructure of American democracy, supposed to defend the nation from foreign attacks, that failed to serve its purpose under the premiership of Donald Trump.


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