Sanctions on Russia create division
In his Farewell Address, George Washington said, “History and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.” Unfortunately, 221 years later, the majority of U.S. citizens seem to have forgotten this quote.
On Feb. 13, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned just 24 short days after assuming the position. However, his resignation was not related to his brief stint in the NSA, but to his actions before President Donald Trump assumed the office.
According to a brief explanation published by The New York Times, the Logan Act of 1799, “bars private citizens from interfering with diplomatic relations between the United States and foreign governments.” The FBI discovered that Flynn broke this law when he contacted Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador to the United States, in late December 2016.
The issue was not the phone call itself, but rather what was discussed. According to the Times, Flynn originally lied to Vice President Mike Pence and others by stating he only held a “small talk” with the ambassador. However, Flynn and Kislyak had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia, originally imposed in 2014 for Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, which was internationally recognized as part of Ukraine.
At the time of the conversation, Flynn was a private citizen. Therefore, he broke the law and has since lost his job.
Flynn is only the latest piece of the puzzle linking the Trump campaign—and now the Trump administration—to Russia. Both a trove of factual and circumstantial evidence continue to be unearthed by the FBI’s investigation.
Factually speaking, Trump has not conducted any business ventures within Russia of which the public is aware. His son, Donald Trump Jr., stated back in 2008 that a lot of money is pouring in from Russia.
The hack of the Democratic National Committee in July and the subsequent backlash against the party have also painted Russia in a biased light.
On a circumstantial basis, the connections are a bit murkier. Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has deep connections to Ukraine and is allied very closely with its former President Viktor Yanukovych, who is now hiding in Russia since his Russian-friendly government was ousted after a revolution in 2014.
The current FBI investigation, according to the Times, has also uncovered Trump campaign aides and associates who have had “repeated” contact with Russian government employees within the last year. An “alarming” amount of contact was made right before the DNC hack in July.
Throw in Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state and former CEO of ExxonMobil, a company that has billions of dollars’ worth of oil and natural gas deals in Russia. According to the Times, these deals can only go through if the sanctions that Flynn and Kislyak were discussing are lifted. This has the potential to become a full-blown conspiracy theory.
Enough hard evidence does not exist to jump on the conspiracy bandwagon. What is more alarming is not just this theory's partial or potential factuality, but that most individuals and news outlets seem to have brushed it aside.
Foreign manipulation into any government activity is highly consequential. The DNC hack alone should have warranted a greater response than the expulsion of 35 Russian intelligence officers from the United States, which occurred last month under the Obama administration.
The newly discovered fact that Flynn had been discussing the possibility of removing sanctions against Russia is utterly asinine. The interests of the Russian government and the removal of sanctions against it only seem to align with Trump and his cabinet, not with U.S. foreign policy interests.
If the Trump administration does, in fact, move forward with the removal of sanctions, it could open a can of worms to more provocative actions by Russia in the Baltic States, or by China’s claim to total sovereignty in the South China Sea.
Furthermore, if Trump continues to foolishly support the Russian government and its interest ahead of the interests of U.S. citizens, one of Washington’s greatest fears will become reality.
Washington also said in his Farewell Address, “Passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists.”
Hopefully, for the stability and prosperity of the United States, these suspicious dots do not connect. If they do, the public will be witnessing the largest political scandal in the nation’s history.