Why it’s hard to take Democrats seriously on Russia

Democrats are exasperated that Republicans don’t share their outrage over the ever-widening scandal surrounding Donald Trump and Russia. The president’s personal solicitousness toward Vladimir Putin, the alacrity of his son in welcoming potential assistance from Russians during the 2016 campaign, and mounting questions as to whether Trump associates colluded with Russia as part of its influence operation against Hillary Clinton are leading Democrats to speak of impeachment and even treason.
As a longtime Russia hawk who has spent most of the past decade covering Kremlin influence operations across the West, I share their exasperation. Over the past year, I have authored pieces with headlines like “How Putin plays Trump like a piano,” “How Trump got his party to love Russia,” and, most recently in this space, “How the GOP became the party of Putin.” As I see it, conservatives’ nonchalance about Russia’s attempt to disrupt and discredit our democracy ranks as one of the most appalling developments in recent American political history.
But as much as Democrats may be correct in their diagnosis of Republican debasement, they are wholly lacking in self-awareness as to their own record regarding Russia. This helps explain why conservatives have so much trouble taking liberal outrage about Russia seriously: Most of the people lecturing them for being “Putin’s pawns” spent the better part of the past eight years blindly supporting a Democratic president, Barack Obama, whose default mode with Moscow was fecklessness. To Republicans, these latter-day Democratic Cold Warriors sound like partisan hysterics, a perception that’s not entirely wrong.
Continue reading this essay in POLITICO Magazine.