Donald Trump’s tongue-in-cheek request that Russian hackers help find Hillary Clinton’s lost emails was clearly intended as a jab at political news media, although they repaid him by treating it as serious and it gave much of the Washington establishment the vapors.
It’s anyone’s guess how serious Trump is in his apparent admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, but anyone who thinks the Republican is the only presidential nominee too closely tied to the tyrant in Moscow is delusional.
Democrats live in a glass house on this issue, as their own nominee, Hillary Clinton, has taken Putin-connected money and perhaps unwittingly, through action and omission, helped advance his military ambitions.
The first hint of this was laid bare last year, when the New York Times reported that Bill Clinton was paid half a million dollars to give a single speech in Moscow in June 2010. The money came from a Kremlin-connected bank with interests in a huge deal involving American uranium mines.
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The deal, which ultimately helped a Russian government enterprise gain 20 percent of American uranium reserves, required the sign-off of Secretary Clinton’s State Department. Many of the players urging the merits of this deal were also big Clinton Foundation donors.
Money went one way, and increased Russian dominance of the world’s nuclear supply chain went the other. That’s a pretty glaring conflict of interest, and it plays right into the popular view of Clinton’s venality.
On Monday, Peter Schweizer, author of “Clinton Cash,” wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Skolkovo, a tech enterprise zone near Moscow billed as the Russian version of Silicon Valley. Washington and Moscow collaborated on the project, the offspring of a bilateral commission established in 2009.
As secretary of state, Clinton helped drum up American investment and find American partner companies in the tech sector for the Russian State Investment Fund. The project generated interest among several large companies, including Google, Intel and Cisco, and money poured in from several American venture capitalists.
Part of the rationale for Skolkovo’s existence, they added, was “to completely renovate [Russia’s] military technology equipment and arsenal by 2020.”
This op-ed was published as part of an FBI business relations series designed to help American firms avoid “scams involving malicious foreign venture capitalists.”
Just as the Obama administration failed to notice the warning signs before Russia invaded Ukraine, so did its State Department, intent on a showy but vacuous “reset” with Russia, overlook for years that it was helping dedicate American money to Putin’s project of upgrading Russia’s military.
The Russia question in the 2016 election, then, is not as simple as some would have it. One candidate seems too admiring of Putin. The other has already done far too much to help him regenerate Russian global power. Which is more dangerous?