The big news today is that Trump explicitly urged Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s e-mail — i.e., to commit an act of espionage and cyberwar against the former Secretary of State and the current nominee for one of America’s major political parties. It goes without saying that this is shocking, unprecedented, and beyond the pale.
But it’s not inexplicable. Trump’s coziness with Russia in general and Putin in particular has become a feature of this campaign. We know that his campaign manager, Manafort, has disturbingly close ties to Russian interests. We know that Trump never fails to praise Putin, an autocrat, at every given turn. And we know that Russia reciprocates the love. There is a growing consensus in the intelligence community that Russia was behind the DNC hack, which shows that Russia and Putin believe that a Trump victory is in their best interests.
All of the above has been discussed at length in the media in recent days. One question that has gotten less attention is why. Why does Putin want Trump to win so badly? What is it about Trump that is so appealing to the Kremlin?
Trump answered that today. This aspect of his disastrous press conference has gotten less attention than his call for a foreign power to spy on his political adversaries, but it explains why he has Putin’s support:
Donald Trump said Wednesday that, if he is elected president, he would consider recognizing Crimea as Russian territory and lifting the sanctions against Russia.
At a wide-ranging news conference, Trump said he “would be looking into that” when asked about his stance on Crimea and Russia. The Crimean Peninsula has been part of Ukraine for decades, but Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed the territory in March 2014 after a popular revolt toppled Kiev's pro-Russian government.
This is jaw dropping. The annexation of Crimea violated international law and sparked a prolonged and bloody conflict in the Ukraine. It was an unacceptable act of aggression that has no place in a post-WWII world. But here Trump is, ready to “look into” giving it his official stamp of approval.
We knew Putin wanted Trump to win. Now we know why. Trump will not only turn a blind eye towards Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. He will excuse, allow, and enable it.
The stakes of this election are unfathomable. Trump must be stopped at all costs.
Update: Timaeus makes a great point. Trump has been bleating for months that he’s interested in reducing American support to NATO. What he said today is simply a more explicit version of what he’s been saying along. Trump is just fine letting our European allies fend for themselves.