The coincidence, it must be said, is troubling. The release of some 20,000 emails leaked from the Democratic Party’s server by Wikileaks on the eve of the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia has embarrassed the party’s leadership and its candidate, Hillary Clinton, and raised strong suspicions of a calculated move from Moscow.
For now, there is no proof of the Kremlin’s involvement in this incident. American intelligence has identified two Russian agents as the culprits who hacked the Democratic Party’s server, without establishing any links with the powers that be in Moscow. The Democratic leadership, however, did not hesitate to do so – including President Obama who noted that “Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin.”
On Wednesday, July 27, in a decidedly unusual electoral campaign, Trump himself gave credit to these accusations by openly asking Russia to find and publish Clinton’s missing emails. The damning spectacle of a candidate for the White House, supported by one of the two major parties, openly asking a foreign power to intervene in public affairs in order to harm his adversary has provoked such an outcry that – just this once – Trump tried to limit the damage by claiming that he was joking.
The Republican candidate’s flip-flopping isn’t fooling anybody. First of all, he was pushed into doing so not primarily because of the indignation of the foreign policy elite, whom he despises, but because Clinton was benefiting from the blunder. Secondly, this is not the first time Donald Trump has declared his iconoclastic approach to Russian-American relations. He does not hide his admiration for Vladimir Putin, whom he sees as a superior leader compared to Barack Obama. He questions the foundations of unity in the Western world, expressing doubts about the possibility of defending a member of NATO in the event of Russian aggression and declaring that the question of recognizing Crimea as Russian territory deserves consideration. As a reminder, Russia invaded Crimea in 2014 and has occupied it since.
It’s easy to understand why, in these circumstances, the Russian president, whose relationship with Hillary Clinton is as icy as his encounters with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, supports Donald Trump’s candidacy. But the Republican Party would do well to reason with their candidate, if that’s still possible, and to remind him that in a democracy electoral campaigns are run within the country. They are not ran by encouraging the involvement of foreign governments, especially those whose democratic reputation is seriously damaged.
We’d like to remind Marine Le Pen, and the National Front, of this, given they are financed by Russian banks close to the Kremlin. We’d also like to remind the numerous French politicians who stop by the Kremlin before flying to Crimea, in spite of government policy, as 11 members of the French parliament did recently, led by Thierry Mariani from Nicolas Sarkozy’s Republican party. In this regard, they unfortunately seem to pay about as much attention to respecting international law as does Donald Trump.