By Nicholas Perugini, Opinion Writer
On December 25th 1991 the hammer and sickle symbol of the Soviet Union was lowered for the last time and was replaced with the tri color of the Russian Federation. The Cold War was officially over. The United States had won and was now the sole super power in the world. For the past twenty-five years, the United States public has moved on. Global terrorism and a rising China are now seen as a threat to the United States. The idea of Russia being a threat was actually ridiculed by politicians. During the 2012 presidential debate when Governor Mitt Romney brought up that Russia was a threat, then President Obama responded with “The 1980s Are calling, they want their foreign policy back.” In Russia the cold war was not over, just on a twenty year pause. President Vladimir Putin has been gathering Russia’s strengths for almost two decades, now he is beginning to show off that power. The United States has been blindsided by this threat and has allowed Putin’s Russia to gain the upper hand. It is time for the American people to realize this threat and for us to pressure our government to do something about it.
With hindsight, it becomes apparent how Russia was regaining its strength. The Russian Military has been taking an active role in international diplomacy for the past decade. In 2008, their army began an occupation of the north Georgian regions of Ossetia and Abkhazia. There was the annexation of Crimea in 2014. The Russian military has also sent troops to combat ISIS and other rebel groups in Syria. Over the past, few years there have been increased Russian bomber incursions in our allies’ air space. Perhaps one of the most obvious threats that the Russian government has displayed to the United States is their massive cyber outreach. Russian hackers have the potential to wreak havoc on the US’s cyber infrastructure, spread propaganda, and target America’s most valuable resource: Our faith in democracy.
This past week there have been shocking revelations about Russia’s interference in the 2016 Presidential election. According to Facebook’s lawyer to the Senate Investigation panel, it is estimated that up to 126 million people saw Russian propaganda advertisements on the website. President Trump’s former campaigner manager, Paul Manafort has been arrested. The Department of Justice also released documents revealing the arrest of campaign advisor George Papadopoulos and his confession to attempting to reach out to the Russian government to obtain Hillary Clinton’s hacked DNC emails. While it is unclear if President Trump had any personal connections with the Russian government, somethings can no longer be denied. The Russian Government has attempted to discredit our elections by interfering with propaganda and cyber-attacks against key politicians.
The Russian government has attacked the heart of American democracy. They have not only displayed propaganda through Facebook advertisements, but have mimicked people on other social media. Fake accounts on twitter and reddit would intentionally argue and spread misinformation to users. They have hacked the servers of both the DNC and the RNC and worked with Wiki leaks to reveal damaging information at opportune times. This massive propaganda effort through was made to sow mistrust and disunity. Vladimir Putin wants Americans to think that democracy and the country as a whole has weakened. According to a new Gallup poll, Americans view the United States’ world standing as the worst in a decade. This massive propaganda effort proves more of a risk to the United States’ future over terrorists and China. How do we fix this issue though? The first step is to acknowledge Russian government’s threats.
It is time the United States government hits back against the Russian government’s aggression. The economy of Russia is quite weak, as Senator John McCain put in a 2014 interview, “Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country.” The Russian economy is ruled by rich businessmen and corrupt government officials. According William Browder, a former foreign investor in Russia, Vladimir Putin has demanded a 50% tribute from the businessmen and officials. They keep their wealth in western assets, like property and shell companies. The United States should implement sanctions on these rich individuals and the businesses they control. The Russian people are not a threat to the United States and do not deserve to suffer from blanket sanctions. The United States should be direct and target Putin and his cronies to send a message that we will not accept this aggression. The ignorant bliss of discounting Russia as a threat is no longer an option for the American people. The Cold War is not over; it just took a 20-year pause. Vladimir Putin’s Russia has attacked our democracy and it is time for the American people to respond.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 7th print edition.
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