Letter: Russian control of the US no longer unimaginable

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To the Editor:

It would have been unimaginable not very long ago, but it's now clear that Russia exercises an unprecedented degree of influence over America. This unnerving development is due in large part to Donald Trump's inexplicable affinity for Vladimir Putin, though there are other reasons, too.

Recent revelations from Trump's staff leave little doubt that his entire obsession with Ukraine came directly from Putin. Putin told Trump that Russia never interfered in the 2016 election, but Ukraine did, and the interference was in favor of Clinton. I have little doubt that Putin also planted the seed in Trump's brain that the US intelligence agencies were against him.

Both ideas fed Trump's endless sense of victimhood and, to Trump, seemed quite credible coming from the "tough leader" that Trump imagines Putin to be. Trump admires Putin's authoritarian approach. Political enemies manage to end up in prison or in hospital beds dying from strange poisons. Journalists who cross Putin have an unfortunate habit of falling out windows or getting in the path of knives or bullets.

Trump dreams of acting this way. He is far more drawn to that cutthroat killer than he will ever be to civil servants or military figures who worry about the niceties of the law. Putin versus the CIA and FBI is a no brainer for Trump: it's Putin every time.

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Three years of Putin's ideas coming out of Trump's mouth have allowed Russia unprecedented influence within the upper circles of American government. It has also severely damaged our basic political structures and our standing in the world. Gallup recently reported that global confidence in US leadership is so low that we are now in a virtual tie with Russia: 31 percent approve of US leadership, 30 percent approve of Russian leadership.

The damage is internal, as well. The second annual Reagan National Defense Survey, completed in late October, found that 28 percent of Americans identified Russia as an ally, up from 19 percent the previous year. It's worse among American households of armed services members, 46 percent of which viewed Russia as ally. This despite the fact that Russian internet trolls posing as ISIS members had threatened harm to our military families.

That is the previously unimaginable situation in which we now find ourselves. And it is the situation which Republicans are making worse by protecting Trump. That was also previously unimaginable.

Lee Russ,

Bennington


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