I have been hearing a lot of comments lately from conservatives that Russia is not our enemy, that President Vladimir Putin is a great guy, a strong leader who loves his country and is simply standing up to the globalist European Union. Mr. Putin and Russia, I’m told, are standing up for Christianity and providing security for Christians from Islamist extremists.
All of this may be true to some extent, at least on the surface. But it’s also worrying. I fear that too many on the right are being duped by the Russian government, its security services and their disinformation campaigns and missing the bigger picture.
Before I go on, let me say this: I am a Trump supporter, voted for him, still support him strongly, and believe his agenda is the only hope to save this great country from the Marxist, progressive, globalist scourge threatening the Western world. I don’t believe the Trump campaign”colluded” with Russia, the narrative pushed by the left to explain their absolute incredulity at losing the election. The Clintons and their minions were much more involved with Russia before the campaign than Mr. Trump ever was.
I also often spend time in Russia, write about it, study it and love the Russian people. They can be very warm and immensely fun to be with. I think Russia is a great country with great things in its future.
However, I also have my eyes wide open. As a former Air Force pilot, I studied the Soviet threat intensely during the Cold War. I’ve done business with Russian financial institutions during my stint on Wall Street. Conservatives need to educate themselves and do a deep dive on Russia.
Russians have a natural aggressiveness. It is inbred due to centuries of rule under the Mongolian hordes, constantly paying tribute to the local strong man. It is a natural instinct for the Kremlin to expand.
The Kremlin truly believes that control of its “Near Abroad” belongs rightfully to Moscow. The Kremlin truly believes that Ukraine is not a country and will one day belong again to Moscow. This goes for the Baltics, the Caucasus and much of Central Asia as well.
Many conservatives trying to excuse and explain Mr. Putin’s actions are overlooking this truth.
Russia has, and is, threatening the Baltics. Russia is enabling a “creeping border” in Georgia, taking land a little at a time in the dead of night. Russia is using the presence of Russian-speaking populations in former Soviet territories to lay claim to bits of pieces of territory such as Donbass and Transdniester.
Russia is very effective at political disinformation campaigns, designed to disrupt Western political processes and drive wedges between different factions in the electorates of Europe and the U.S.
This is not to say the U.S. has clean hands. We do, and have done, the same. However, this is no reason to put blinders on to the Russians’ behavior.
We can and should work with Russia where we can, such as in the struggle against the Islamic State. However, the Kremlin will always take care of its own interests first, as we should. Syrian President Bashar Assad has killed hundreds of thousands of his own people. Russia’s main goal in Syria is not the defeat of ISIS; it is to build a Russian military capability in the region, with long-term basing guaranteed by Damascus.
We can work with Russia where we can, but we should confront Moscow where they need to be confronted. Yes, conservatives need to learn more about Russia. But, to use a phrase coined by Lenin, don’t be a useful idiot.
• L. Todd Wood is a former special operations helicopter pilot and Wall Street debt trader, and has contributed to Fox Business, The Moscow Times, National Review, the New York Post and many other publications. He can be reached through his website, LToddWood.com.