Is Russia Really America’s Top Security Threat?

Victory Day parade in Red Square, 2016. Kremlin.ru

Donald Trump just received his latest orders from Vladimir Putin—one could be forgiven for thinking this is what happened after last Saturday’s phone call, given some of the recent headlines: “The Budding Resemblance Between Putin and Trump,” “Trump’s Putin Bromance Is Making Americans Pro-Russian,” and “How Much Does Trump Love Putin?”

The politicization of Russian influence has unfortunately created misperceptions about how and to what extent Russia threatens American interests. The American people must take a moment and ensure they are not fearing Russia more than is necessary. This is important because misperception can have grave consequences: distraction from other more serious threats, limited geostrategic maneuverability and potential future conflict.

A quick skim of the headlines will show that Russia is the United States’ latest foreign-policy villain. Its hacking of the Democratic National Convention last year was proof it poses a national-security threat. And the awareness of this threat is not new—there have been government investigations since early last year into Russia’s interference in American politics, and specifically its support of the Trump campaign.

Not surprisingly, Russia is viewed with particular suspicion on the political left. At the Women’s March and subsequent demonstrations, protesters waved a variety of signs claiming Trump is a Putin stooge. “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Czar, Putin Made You What You Are.” “Say No to Putin’s Puppet!”

The truth of the matter, though, is that although Russia does present a threat, that threat has been greatly exaggerated by domestic political mudslinging.

Think back to mid-2016. At that time, it was becoming apparent—dreadfully so to the Democrats—that Trump might actually win the election. One of the main ways in which Trump was beating Hillary Clinton was with his “America first” rhetoric. According to him, Hillary and the Obama administration she worked for gave birth to ISIS, were responsible for the Benghazi attacks, were letting China take advantage of the United States and were allowing Latin American immigrants to hurt the economy. Trump furthermore accused Hillary of being influenced by foreign powers via the Clinton Foundation. These claims convinced many Americans that Trump was the right man to protect the country in an increasingly dangerous world…

(Cont)  NATIONAL INTEREST

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