- - Tuesday, February 20, 2018


The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming, but without the exclamation points. Indeed, they’re already here. Robert Mueller announced another indictment Tuesday, this time of a Dutchman, but he has a Russian wife, which counts for something in the fear index. Mr. Mueller was expected to haul in at least a tuna by now, and so far has landed only minnows. But there’s no doubt more to come.

Suspicions are nevertheless growing that the hullabaloo over Russian attempts to manipulate an American election is drawing attention away from more important scandalous matters, including the lagging effort of the United States to rearm as the overwhelming force for peace and stability in the world.

Washington’s description of these Russian operatives and their low-grade mischief indicates that Vladimir Putin’s government, wicked as it might be, has little of the expertise of the Soviets and the KGB of its “glory” days, of which Mr. Putin himself is an alum. The Russians today certainly pose little of the fear and loathing projected by the successors to Lenin, working from Lenin’s theories of the dictatorship of the proletariat. For one thing, and the most obvious thing, Moscow no longer commands the loyalty and services of ideological cynics and naive and foolish idealists abroad, either in Communist parties or as fellow travelers forming a vast espionage network.

Russians bent on spreading mischief face a structural problem in trying to manipulate an American presidential election. One of the many gifts of the Founding Fathers, in their creation of a federal republic, was that they left the concept of suffrage to be decided locally by the states. There is no national election, but 50 elections needed to produce a president, as we saw writ large in 2016. The president is elected by the states, through the Electoral College, a genius arrangement barely understood by many Americans and often not understood at all by the rest of the world.

There has never been, nor should there be, an attempt to enact a federal voters law, although requirements and restrictions, such as those needed to protect the rights of minorities, have been successfully embedded into federal law.

To preserve this arrangement has inevitably caused problems. For most of the history of the republic, race was used to bar a large portion of the citizenry from the franchise, finally remedied only in recent decades.

But the very variety of electoral laws — local, state and federal — prevents the enactment of a centrally dictated electoral law, and with it the threat of one size-fits-all national plebiscites. The genius of the Founding Fathers, contentious and suspicious of each other and eager to preserve the identity and authority of their states, is revealed as a miracle once more.

It’s that messy network of different laws and customs that confounded the Russians when they set out to manipulate the American election. The realists in Moscow, who bothered to study the biases and prejudices of our blessed land, surely understood that all they could accomplish would be to cast doubt on the process, wherever and however it was conducted. Perhaps that explains why they set out to use the Trump phenomenon.

The mischief-makers achieved confusion, in part with the unwitting assistance — there’s no end of the “unwitting” this season — of Mr. Mueller’s highly publicized indictments of Russian agents and the disclosure of details that the public really didn’t have to know.

The Russian intelligence organization, barely a shadow of its former Soviet self, has spent resources and manpower it could ill afford. Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine had already taxed those resources, along with the attempt to further threaten the U.S. and the West with subversion in the Baltic States, once occupied by the Russian Empire and the Soviets at their zeniths.

The current Russian Federation, with the world’s second largest nuclear inventory of 4,500 strategic warheads, remains with China and Iran one of the three principal threats to international peace and stability.

Russia emerged from communism as an unstable but more or less democratic state, propelled by Mr. Putin’s aggression in southeastern Europe. That has called for deployment of four multinational battle groups to the Baltic nations and Poland, a manifestation of the U.S.-led NATO shield for the Western democracies.

President Trump has indicated he is willing to negotiate the West’s differences with Vladimir Putin, and a good thing, too. The threat to peace and stability by the government in Moscow remains one of the principal foreign threats to the United States. A policeman’s lot is never a happy one.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide