Collusion with Russia: A Bipartisan Affair

“Let’s put aside the time-honored international sport of meddling in other countries’ elections. Let’s stick with collusion with Russia: a quarter-century long, Bipartisan Beltway melody, right up until on November 8, 2016.

Cro-Magnon blowhards like myself have never warmed up to Moscow. So we’ve complained about the New Thinking, regardless of whether it was incumbent Republicans or Democrats delusionally portraying Russia as a perfectly normal country with which to do business, make lots of money, and even ally ourselves.12

Washington, however, has preferred to stay delusional.

The unsustainability of the Communist system, under the pressure of Reagan’s military build-up and support of anti-Communist movements, made the Evil Empire’s disintegration inevitable. Yet, gifted a historic opportunity to dance on the grave of Soviet tyranny, our government’s bipartisan foreign-policy establishment punted. Rather than call the culprits to account and make an enduring record of the hundreds of millions killed and enslaved, successive administrations embraced and propped up Moscow as a force for global stability. The Soviet Union hadn’t quite finished crumbling when President George H. W. Bush gave his infamous “Chicken Kiev” speech, trying to persuade Ukraine not to break away from Moscow.13 It was a harbinger of things to come: Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all enticed Ukraine to give up its means of self-defense on the false assurance that we would—with Russia’s help!—protect it from aggression—an assurance premised on the pie-in-the-sky theory that there would, of course, be no Russian aggression.14

Given Ukraine’s prominence in the Trump–Russia collusion narrative developed by the Hillary Clinton campaign, it is worth recalling Bill Clinton’s collusion with Russia in the “Trilateral Statement”: a joint declaration between Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, along with Britain, purporting to guarantee Ukraine’s security. Why would Kiev need to keep its nuclear arsenal when its neighbor, Moscow, had reformed? The Iron Curtain was history, history itself was supposedly at its happy democratic ending, and it was now all about paying out the “peace dividend.”15 Throughout his eight-year tenure, Clinton flaunted his warm relationship with Yeltsin, committing to support Moscow with financial assistance, including subsidies to adjust decommissioned military officers and nuclear scientists to the new order. In 1997, the U.S. president prevailed upon our G-7 allies to make it the G-8 by admitting Russia, giving it greater influence over global trend-setting by the world’s leading economies, despite the fact that Russia was not one of them.16

Then there was President George W. Bush peering into Vladimir Putin’s soul and finding a “trustworthy” ally. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joined our new “strategic partner” in an agreement to help Russia amass the technology, material, and equipment needed to improve its nuclear research and power production—for “civilian” purposes only, of course. Bush enthusiastically seconded Clinton’s proposal that Russia be admitted to the World Trade Organization, even though its corrupt economic policies and practices undermine the market-based norms the WTO is meant to fortify.17

Meanwhile, up-and-coming Democratic Senator Barack Obama was working bipartisan magic with Senate Republicans, pushing Kiev to think bolder than just giving up its nukes; Ukraine needed to surrender its conventional arsenals, too. But wait, what about protection from possible Russian invasions? Please … that was foreign-policy thinking for a bygone time.18

Naturally, Putin humiliated the Bush administration and Congress’s bipartisan Russia accommodationists by invading Georgia, annexing swaths of its territory in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The White House quietly withdrew the ballyhooed U.S.–Russia Civilian Nuclear Power Agreement from congressional consideration.” 19

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