Sunday, November 19, 2017
Editorials

Another voice: Why Russia is a hostile power

RECOMMENDED READING


After we learned that Donald Trump Jr. said he would "love" to receive campaign help from the Russian government, it was pointed out that Russia is a hostile power. This is true, but what does it mean? It's worth revisiting the question, because the answer has a lot to do with what Russian President Vladimir Putin stood to gain by interfering in the United States' 2016 presidential election.

"Hostile," in this case, doesn't mean that Russia and the United States are about to go to war. In theory, their interests shouldn't even diverge all that much. They are two continental powers on opposite sides of the world with no territorial disputes (though the melting of Arctic ice may change that). They share a fear of Islamist terrorism.

What makes Russia hostile is Putin's adherence to, and dependence on, a set of values that are antithetical to what have been, at least until now, bedrock American values. He favors spheres of influence over self-determination; corruption over transparency; and repression over democracy. His antipathy toward Hillary Clinton was not personality-driven but based on her advocacy of values that would threaten his rule.

It's sometimes hard for Americans to understand the gulf between the two nations because Putin has maintained the trappings of democracy — a parliament, national elections — even as he has made them meaningless by shuttering most independent media and eliminating most political opposition. The state now serves Putin and his cronies, who have become immensely wealthy, rather than the reverse. When people try to expose the corruption, they are imprisoned or killed (or both, as in the case of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky).

Ukraine, which like Russia was part of the Soviet Union, provides a useful example. This is a country the size of France that lies between Russia and the rest of Europe. When it started to move in a more democratic direction, Putin felt threatened on two counts. First, a democratic Ukraine would not be as open to plunder as one ruled by oligarchs; second, if a democratic Ukraine prospered, it might give ordinary Russians dangerous ideas. Clinton, as secretary of state and after, supported Ukraine's democratic aspirations. Putin invaded the country, seized part of its territory and initiated an ugly civil war that helps keep Ukraine from prospering.

It may be true that Putin's hacking and fake-news campaign began as an effort simply to damage Clinton's reputation on her road to the White House or to make the democratic process look as ugly as possible. But along the way, Putin must have realized that Donald Trump's policies aligned with his values more than he could have dared expect from any American candidate. Trump disparaged democratic allies and alliances while expressing admiration for dictators. He appeared willing to mingle private business with public duties in unprecedented ways, while elevating family members in the style of a Central Asian caesar. At home, he echoed Putin in his cynical disparagement of a free press, his celebration of violence at his rallies, and his ugliness toward Muslims, Mexicans and others he perceived or portrayed as outsiders.

So while the younger Trump may have seen advantage in accepting Russia's help, Russia certainly would have seen an advantage in proffering it. Putin's values are antithetical to American values, but the Russian dictator had good reason to hope that they would not be antithetical to the values of a Trump administration.

Comments

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise — for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system — one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17

Editorial: Deputies’ rescue reflects best in law enforcement

The bravery two Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies showed a week ago is a credit to them and reflects the professionalism of the office.Deputies Benjamin Thompson and Trent Migues responded at dusk Nov. 11 after 82-year-old Leona Evans of Webster...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/17/17

Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trump’s latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included — along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election — an appeal to pragmatism. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,"...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/14/17