Yesterday the directors of the FBI and the National Security Agency testified before a congressional committee about a U.S. investigation into allegations of ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Bizarrely, citing no evidence of aggression, congressmen and top U.S. officials claimed Russia continues to be a threat to the United States.
By Mark Anderson
The first day of the House Select Committee on Intelligence’s highly anticipated probe into alleged Russian involvement in influencing U.S. elections and policy saw FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency chief Mike Rogers testify in a spotty manner, going into often-speculative details and yet refusing to elaborate most of the time, under cover of “objectivity.”
Considering the conspiracy theories being pushed by most Democratic lawmakers and some Republicans that Trump administration appointees and allies privately met with Russian officials for the purpose of molding U.S.-Russian relations “off the grid,” you’d expect some kind of evidence. Instead, it was all speculation, but none of that matters for those who just assume that Russia is a dangerous arch-enemy of the United States.
It helps to sit back and take an objective look at the world stage. Russia’s entire western front consists of NATO member-nations or would-be NATO states, which, if they don’t proceed willingly, are prodded into joining NATO.
Montenegro recently became NATO’s latest member, as the U.S.-led alliance pushes ever eastward toward Russia while conducting periodic large-scale military exercises, right at the Russian border in many cases.
Imagine if Russian forces, complete with tanks and columns of soldiers, were in Canada along the U.S. border.
Members of Congress before and during the March 20 committee meeting continued to repeat the timeworn story that Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula, when “the other side of the story,” backed up by several AFP reports over the last three years, is that, in a public referendum, Crimean residents voted to align with Russia—right when a U.S.-backed overthrow of Ukraine’s leadership took place.
High-level State Department official Victoria Nuland was involved in serious on-the-ground collusion in Ukraine, far beyond what the Trump White House or campaign is accused of. This helped to foster the overthrow of Russian ally Viktor Yanukovich as Ukraine president and the installation of Western stooge Petro Poroshenko.
Today, Poroshenko stands accused of launching brutal military strikes against east Ukrainians, who traditionally have been allied with Russia.
This all means that Russia reacted to aggression by the West. And when outgoing President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats in late December, Russian leader Vladimir Putin kept a cool head and did not respond in kind. That’s the mark of a true statesman.
You’d think that such perspectives—blotted out by the mainstream press—would at least be briefly considered at the committee hearing, if only in the interest of thoroughness.
Yet committee members singled out Russia Today (“RT.com”) as a highly untrustworthy government-linked news source that’s allegedly trying to influence Western opinion subversively.
However, all Comey and Rogers had done is concede that there is an investigation into Russia-Trump “ties.” But the overall “story” peddled to the American people is that this Russian matter is potentially so serious that the FBI and NSA are setting aside protocol and “breaking their silence” about the existence of the probe.
While addressing the committee, the two meandered through questions on whether Putin and the Russian state are really evil and whether Russia truly sought to keep Hillary Clinton from becoming president and helped catapult Trump into the White House.
While Comey and Rogers dodged many if not most questions—saying they did not find it proper to speculate on the cusp of their probe—they both claimed that Russia is indeed a foe of the U.S. And both said, yes, Russia sought to undermine U.S. “democracy” during the 2016 elections—all of which is highly biased when you consider that the two had already said that speculation is a bad thing at this juncture.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) opined during the hearing that Russia’s election hacking was like a shot over America’s bow.
“I actually think that their engagement was an act of war, an act of hybrid warfare,” Speier stated.
In response, Comey declined to choose the word “war” to describe Russia’s supposed interference in the election. But he did say, “I think they engaged in a multi-faceted campaign of active measures to undermine our democracy and hurt one of the candidates and hope to help one of the other candidates.”
Rogers agreed with Comey’s allegation, larded as it was with the words “I think.”
So much for avoiding speculation at such a pivotal time for the FBI and its presumably objective view of Russia’s actions with regard to the U.S. election and policy.
Mark Anderson is AFP’s roving editor.