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Russophobia in the Age of Donald Trump

Russophobia in the Age of Donald Trump

(p.81) 5 Russophobia in the Age of Donald Trump
The Dark Double
Andrei P. Tsygankov
Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

The chapter extends the argument about media and value conflict between Russia and the United States to the age of Donald Trump. The new value conflict is assessed as especially acute and exacerbated by the US partisan divide. The Russia issue became central because it reflected both political partisanship and the growing value division between Trump voters and the liberal establishment. In addition to explaining the new wave of American Russophobia, the chapter analyzes Russia’s own role and motives. The media are likely to continue the ideological and largely negative coverage of Russia, especially if Washington and Moscow fail to develop a pragmatic form of cooperation.

Keywords:   Russia, Trump, US elections, narrative of collusion, partisan divide

This chapter addresses the new development in the US media perception of the Russian threat following the election of Donald Trump as the United States’ president. The election revealed that US national values could no longer be viewed as predominantly liberal and favoring the global promotion of democracy, as supported by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. During and after the election, the liberal media sought to present Moscow as not only favoring Trump but being responsible for his election and even ruling on behalf of the Kremlin. Those committed to a liberal worldview led the way in criticizing Russia and Putin for assaulting liberal democratic values globally and inside the United States. This chapter argues that the Russia issue became so central in the new internal divide because it reflects both political partisanship and the growing division between the values of Trump voters and those of the liberal establishment. The domestic political struggle has exacerbated the divide. Russia’s otherness, again, has highlighted values of “freedom,” seeking to preserve the confidence of the liberal self.

(p.82) The Narrative of Trump’s “Collusion” with Russia

During the US presidential election campaign, American media developed yet another perception of Russia as reflected in the narrative of Trump’s collusion with the Kremlin.1 Having originated in liberal media and building on the previous perceptions of neo-Soviet autocracy and foreign threat, the new perception of Russia was that of the enemy that won the war against the United States. By electing the Kremlin’s favored candidate, America was defeated by Russia. As a CNN columnist wrote, “The Russians really are here, infiltrating every corner of the country, with the single goal of disrupting the American way of life.”2 The two assumptions behind the new media narrative were that Putin was an enemy and that Trump was compromised by Putin. The inevitable conclusion was that Trump could not be a patriot and potentially was a traitor prepared to act against US interests.

The new narrative was assisted by the fact that Trump presented a radically different perspective on Russia than Clinton and the US establishment. The American political class had been in agreement that Russia displayed an aggressive foreign policy seeking to destroy the US-centered international order. Influential politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, commonly referred to Russian president Putin as an extremely dangerous KGB spy with no soul. Instead, Trump saw Russia’s international interests as not fundamentally different from America’s. He advocated that the United States to find a way to align its policies and priorities in defeating terrorism in the Middle East—a goal that Russia shared—with the Kremlin’s. Trump promised to form new alliances to “unite the civilized world against Radical Islamic Terrorism” and to eradicate it “completely from the face of the Earth.”3 He hinted that he was prepared to revisit the thorny issues of Western sanctions against (p.83) the Russian economy and the recognition of Crimea as a part of Russia. Trump never commented on Russia’s political system but expressed his admiration for Putin’s leadership and high level of domestic support.4

Capitalizing on the difference between Trump’s views and those of the Democratic Party nominee, Hillary Clinton, the liberal media referred to Trump as the Kremlin-compromised candidate. Commentators and columnists with the New York Times, such as Paul Krugman, referred to Trump as the “Siberian” candidate.5 Commentators and pundits, including those with academic and political credentials, developed the theory that the United States was under attack. The former ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, wrote in the Washington Post that Russia had attacked “our sovereignty” and continued to “watch us do nothing” because of the partisan divide. He compared the Kremlin’s actions with Pearl Harbor or 9/11 and warned that Russia was likely to perform repeat assaults in 2018 and 2020.6 The historian Timothy Snyder went further, comparing the election of Trump to a loss of war, which Snyder said was the basic aim of the enemy. Writing in the New York Daily News, he asserted, “We no longer need to wonder what it would be like to lose a war on our own territory. We just lost one to Russia, and the consequence was the election of Donald Trump.”7

The election of Trump prompted the liberal media to discuss Russia-related fears. The leading theory was that Trump would now compromise America’s interests and rule the country on behalf of Putin. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times called for actions against Russia and praised “patriotic” Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham for being tough on Trump.8 MSNBC host Rachel Maddow asked whether Trump was actually under Putin’s control. Citing Trump’s views and his associates’ travel to Moscow, she told viewers, “We are also starting to see (p.84) what may be signs of continuing [Russian] influence in our country, not just during the campaign but during the administration—basically, signs of what could be a continuing operation.”9 Another New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, published a column titled “There’s a Smell of Treason in the Air,” arguing that the FBI’s investigation of the Trump presidential campaign’s collusion “with a foreign power so as to win an election” was an investigation of whether such collusion “would amount to treason.”10 Responding to Trump’s statement that his phone was tapped during the election campaign, the Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum tweeted that “Trump’s insane ‘GCHQ tapped my phone’ theory came from . . . Moscow.” McFaul and many others then endorsed and retweeted the message.11

To many within the US media, Trump’s lack of interest in promoting global institutions and his publicly expressed doubts that the Kremlin was behind cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) served to exacerbate the problem. Several intelligence leaks to the press and investigations by Congress and the FBI contributed to the image of a president who was not motivated by US interests. The US intelligence report on Russia’s alleged hacking of the US electoral system released on January 8, 2017, served to consolidate the image of Russia as an enemy. Leaks to the press have continued throughout Trump’s presidency. Someone in the administration informed the press that Trump called Putin to congratulate him on his victory in elections on March 18, 2018, despite Trump’s advisers’ warning against making such a call.12

In the meantime, investigations of Trump’s alleged “collusion” with Russia were failing to produce substantive evidence. Facts that some associates of Trump sought to meet or met with members of Russia’s government did not lead to evidence of sustained contacts or collaboration. It was not proven that the Kremlin’s “black dossier” on Trump compiled by British intelligence officer (p.85) Christopher Steele and leaked to CNN was truthful. Russian activity on American social networks such as Facebook and Twitter was not found to be conclusive in determining outcomes of the elections.13 In February 2018, a year after launching investigation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted thirteen Russian nationals for allegedly interfering in the US 2016 presidential elections, yet their connection to Putin or Trump was not established. On March 12, 2018, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr stated that he had not yet seen any evidence of collusion.14 Representative Mike Conaway, the Republican leading the Russia investigation, announced the end of the committee’s probe of Russian meddling in the election.15

Trump was also not acting toward Russia in the way the US media expected. His views largely reflected those of the military and national security establishment and disappointed some of his supporters.16 The US National Security Strategy and new Defense Strategy presented Russia as a leading security threat, alongside China, Iran, and North Korea. The president made it clear that he wanted to engage in tough bargaining with Russia by insisting on American terms.17 Instead of improving ties with Russia, let alone acting on behalf of the Kremlin, Trump contributed to new crises in bilateral relations that had to do with the two sides’ principally different perceptions. While the Kremlin expected Washington to normalize relations, the United States assumed Russia’s weakness and expected it to comply with Washington’s priorities regarding the Middle East, Ukraine, and Afghanistan and nuclear and cyber issues.18 Trump also authorized the largest expulsion of Russian diplomats in US history and ordered several missile strikes against Assad’s Russia-supported positions in Syria, each time provoking a crisis in relations with Moscow. Even Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whom Rachel Maddow suspected of being appointed on Putin’s advice to “weaken” the State Department and “bleed out” (p.86) the FBI,19 was replaced by John Bolton. The latter’s foreign policy reputation was that of a hawk, including on Russia.20

Responding to these developments, the media focused on fears of being attacked by the Kremlin and on Trump not doing enough to protect the country. These fears went beyond the alleged cyber interference in the US presidential elections and included infiltration of American media and social networks and attacks on congressional elections and the country’s most sensitive infrastructure, such as electric grids, water-processing plants, banking networks, and transportation facilities. In order to prevent such developments, media commentators and editorial writers recommended additional pressures on the Kremlin and counteroffensive operations.21 One commentator recommended, as the best defense from Russia’s plans to interfere with another election in the United States, launching a cyberattack on Russia’s own presidential elections in March 2018, to “disrupt the stability of Vladimir Putin’s regime.”22 A New York Times editorial summarized the mood by challenging President Trump to confront Russia further: “If Mr. Trump isn’t Mr. Putin’s lackey, it’s past time for him to prove it.”23 The burden of proof was now on Trump’s shoulders.

Opposition to the “Collusion” Narrative

In contrast to highly critical views of Russia in the dominant media, conservative, libertarian, and progressive sources offered different assessments. Initially, opposition to the collusion narrative came from the alternative media, yet gradually—in response to scant evidence of Trump’s collusion—it incorporated voices within the mainstream.

The conservative media did not support the view that Russia “stole” elections and presented Trump as a patriot who wanted to make America great rather than develop “cozy” relationships with (p.87) the Kremlin. Writing in the American Interest, Walter Russell Mead argued that Trump aimed to demonstrate the United States’ superiority by capitalizing on its military and technological advantages. He did not sound like a Russian mole. Challenging the liberal media, the author called for “an intellectually solvent and emotionally stable press” and wrote that “if President Trump really is a Putin pawn, his foreign policy will start looking much more like Barack Obama’s.”24 Instead of viewing Trump as compromised by the Kremlin, sources such Breitbart and Fox News attributed the blame to the deep state, “the complex of bureaucrats, technocrats, and plutocrats,” including the intelligence agencies, that seeks to “derail, or at least to de-legitimize, the Trump presidency” by engaging in accusations and smear campaigns.25

Echoing Trump’s own views, some conservatives expressed their admiration for Putin as a dynamic leader superior to Obama. In particular, they praised Putin for his ability to defend Russia’s “traditional values” and great-power status.26 Neoconservative and paleoconservative publications like the National Review, the Weekly Standard, Human Events Online, and others critiqued Obama’s “feckless foreign policy,” characterized by “fruitless accommodationism,” contrasting it with Putin’s skilled and calculative geopolitical “game of chess.”27 A Washington Post / ABC News poll revealed that among Republicans, 75% approved of Trump’s approach on Russia relative; 40% of all respondents approved.28 This did not mean that conservatives and Republicans were “infiltrated” by the Kremlin. Mutual Russian and American conservative influences were limited and nonstructured.29 The approval of Putin as a leader by American conservatives meant that they shared a certain commonality of ideas and were equally critical of liberal media and globalization.30

Progressive and libertarian media also did not support the narrative of collusion. Gary Leupp at CounterPunch found the (p.88) narrative to be serving the purpose of reviving and even intensifying “Cold War-era Russophobia,” with Russia being an “adversary” “only in that it opposes the expansion of NATO, especially to include Ukraine and Georgia.”31 Justin Raimondo at questioned the narrative by pointing to Russia’s bellicose rhetoric in response to Trump’s actions.32 Glenn Greenwald and Zaid Jilani at Intercept reminded readers that, overall, Trump proved to be far more confrontational toward Russia than Obama, thereby endangering America.33 In particular Trump severed diplomatic ties with Russia, armed Ukraine, appointed anti-Russia hawks, such as ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, National Security Advisor John Bolton, and Secretary of State Michal Pompeo to key foreign policy positions, antagonized Russia’s Iranian allies, and imposed tough sanctions against Russian business with ties to the Kremlin.34

The dominant liberal media ignored opposing perspectives or presented them as compromised by Russia. For instance, in amplifying the view that Putin “stole” the elections, the Washington Post sought to discredit alternative sources of news and commentaries as infiltrated by the Kremlin’s propaganda. On November 24, 2016, the newspaper published an interview with the executive director of a new website, PropOrNot, who preferred to remain anonymous, and claimed that the Russian government circulated pro-Trump articles before the election. Without providing evidence on explaining its methodology, the group identified more than two hundred websites that published or echoed Russian propaganda, including WikiLeaks and the Drudge Report, left-wing websites such as CounterPunch, Truthout, Black Agenda Report, Truthdig, and Naked Capitalism, as well as libertarian venues such as and the Ron Paul Institute.35 Another mainstream liberal outlet, CNN, warned the American people to be vigilant against the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to spread propaganda: “Enormous numbers of (p.89) Americans are not only failing to fight back, they are also unwitting collaborators—reading, retweeting, sharing and reacting to Russian propaganda and provocations every day.”36

However, voices of dissent were now heard even in the mainstream media. Masha Gessen of the New Yorker said that Trump’s tweet about Robert Mueller’s indictments and Moscow’s “laughing its ass off” was “unusually (perhaps accidentally) accurate.”37 She pointed out that Russians of all ideological convictions “are remarkably united in finding the American obsession with Russian meddling to be ridiculous.”38 The editor of the influential Politico, Blake Hounshell, confessed that he was a Russiagate skeptic because even though “Trump was all too happy to collude with Putin,” Mueller’s team never found a “smoking gun.”39 In reviewing the book on Russia’s role in the 2016 election Russian Roulette, veteran New York Times reporter Steven Lee Myers noted that the Kremlin’s meddling “simply exploited the vulgarity already plaguing American political campaigns” and that the veracity of many accusations remained unclear.40

Explaining Russophobia

The high-intensity Russophobia within the American media, overblown even by the standards of previous threat narratives, could no longer be explained by differences in national values or by bilateral tensions. The new fear of Russia also reflected domestic political polarization and growing national unease over America’s identity and future direction.

The narrative of collusion in the media was symptomatic of America’s declining confidence in its own values. Until the intervention in Iraq in 2004, optimism and a sense of confidence prevailed in American social attitudes, having survived even the terrorist attack on the United States on September 11, 2001. The (p.90) country’s economy was growing and its position in the world was not challenged. However, the disastrous war in Iraq, the global financial crisis of 2008, and Russia’s intervention in Georgia in August 2008 changed that. US leadership could no longer inspire the same respect, and a growing number of countries viewed it as a threat to world peace.41 Internally, the United States was increasingly divided. Following presidential elections in November 2016, 77% of Americans perceived their country as “greatly divided on the most important values.”42 The value divide had been expressed in partisanship and political polarization long before the 2016 presidential elections.43 The Russia issue deepened this divide. According to a poll taken in October 2017, 63% of Democrats, but just 38% of Republicans, viewed “Russia’s power and influence” as a major threat to the well-being of the United States.44

During the US 2016 presidential elections, Russia emerged as a convenient way to accentuate differences between Democratic and Republican candidates, which in previous elections were never as pronounced or defining. The new elections deepened the partisan divide because of extreme differences between the two main candidates, particularly on Russia. Donald Trump positioned himself as a radical populist promising to transform US foreign policy and “drain the swamp” in Washington. His position on Russia seemed unusual because, by election time, the Kremlin had challenged the United States’ position in the world by annexing Crimea, supporting Ukrainian separatism, and possibly hacking the DNC site.

The Russian issue assisted Clinton in stressing her differences from Trump. Soon after it became known that DNC servers were hacked, she embraced the view that Russia was behind the cyberattacks. She accused Russia of “trying to wreak havoc” in the United States and threatened retaliation.45 In his turn, Trump used Russia to challenge Clinton’s commitment to national security (p.91) and ability to serve as commander in chief. In particular, he drew public attention to the FBI investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server for professional correspondence, and even noted sarcastically that the Russians should find thirty thousand missing emails belonging to her. The latter was interpreted by many in liberal media and political circles as a sign of Trump’s being unpatriotic.46 Clinton capitalized on this interpretation. She referred to the issue of hacking as the most important one throughout the campaign and challenged Trump to agree with assessments of intelligence agencies that cyberattacks were ordered by the Kremlin. She questioned Trump’s commitments to US national security and accused him of being a “puppet” for President Putin.47 Following Trump’s victory, Clinton told donors that her loss should be partly attributed to Putin and the election hacks directed by him.48

Clinton’s arguments fitted with the overall narrative embraced by the mainstream media since roughly 2005 characterizing Russia as abusive and aggressive. Clinton viewed Russia as an oppressive autocratic power that was aggressive abroad to compensate for domestic weaknesses. Previously, in her book Hard Choices, then-secretary of state Clinton described Putin as “thin-skinned and autocratic, resenting criticism and eventually cracking down on dissent and debate.”49 This view was shared by President Obama, who publicly referred to Russia as a “regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors not out of strength but out of weakness.”50 During the election’s campaign, Clinton argued that the United States should challenge Russia by imposing a no-fly zone in Syria with the objective of removing Assad from power, strengthening sanctions against the Russian economy, and providing lethal weapons to Ukraine in order to contain the potential threat of Russia’s military invasion.

Following the elections, the partisan divide deepened, with liberal establishment attacking the “unpatriotic” Trump. Having (p.92) lost the election, Clinton partly attributed Trump’s victory to the role of Russia and advocated an investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia. In February 2017 the Clinton-influenced Center for American Progress brought on a former State Department official to run a new Moscow Project.51 As acknowledged by the New Yorker, members of the Clinton inner circle believed that the Obama administration deliberately downplayed DNC hacking by the Kremlin. “We understand the bind they were in,” one of Clinton’s senior advisers said. “But what if Barack Obama had gone to the Oval Office, or the East Room of the White House, and said, ‘I’m speaking to you tonight to inform you that the United States is under attack . . .’ A large majority of Americans would have sat up and taken notice . . . it is bewildering—it is baffling—it is hard to make sense of why this was not a five-alarm fire in the White House.”52

In addition to Clinton, many other members of the Washington establishment, including some Republicans, spread the narrative of Russia “attacking” America. Republican politicians who viewed Clinton’s defeat and the hacking attacks in military terms included those of chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John McCain, who stated, “When you attack a country, it’s an act of war,”53 and former vice president Dick Cheney, who called Russia’s alleged interference in the US election “a very serious effort made by Mr. Putin” that “in some quarters that would be considered an act of war.”54 A number of Democrats also engaged in the rhetoric of war, likening the Russian “attack,” as Senator Ben Cardin did, to a “political Pearl Harbor.”55

Rumors and leaks, possibly by members of US intelligence agencies,56 and activities of liberal groups that sought to discredit Trump contributed to the Russophobia. In addition to the DNC hacking accusations, many fears of Russia in the media were based on the assumption that contacts, let alone cooperation with the (p.93) Kremlin, was unpatriotic and implied potentially “compromising” behavior: praise of Putin as a leader, possible business dealings with Russian “oligarchs,” and meetings with Russian officials such Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.57

There were therefore two sides to the Russia story in the US liberal media—rational and emotional. The rational side had to do with calculations by Clinton-affiliated circles and anti-Russian groups pooling their resources to undermine Trump and his plans to improve relations with Russia. Among others, these resources included dominance within the liberal media and leaks by the intelligence community. The emotional side was revealed by the liberal elites’ values and ability to promote fears of Russia within the US political class and the general public. Popular emotions of fear and frustration with Russia already existed in the public space due to the old Cold War memories, as well as disturbing post–Cold War developments that included wars in Chechnya, Georgia, and Ukraine. In part because of these memories, factions such as those associated with Clinton were successful in evoking in the public liberal mind what historian Richard Hofstadter called the “paranoid style” or “the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy.”58 Mobilized by liberal media to pressure Trump, these emotions became an independent factor in the political struggle inside Washington. The public display of fear and frustration with Russia and Trump could only be sustained by a constant supply of new “suspicious” developments and intense discussion by the media.

Russia’s Role and Motives

Russia’s “attacking” America and Trump’s “colluding” with the Kremlin remained poorly substantiated. Taken together, the DNC hacking, Trump’s and Putin’s mutual praise, and Trump associates’ (p.94) contacts with Russian officials implied Kremlin infiltration of the United States’ internal politics. Yet viewed separately, each was questionable and unproven. Some of these points could have also been made about Hillary Clinton, who had ties to Russian—not to mention Saudi Arabian—business circles and Ukrainian politicians.59 Political views cannot be counted as evidence. Contacts with Russian officials could have been legitimate exchanges of views about two countries’ interests and potential cooperation. Even the CIA- and the FBI-endorsed conclusion that Russia attacked the DNC servers was questioned by some observers on the grounds that forensic evidence was lacking and that it relied too much on findings by one cybersecurity company.60 In general, discussion of Russia in the US media lacked nuances and a sense of proportion. As Jesse Walker, an editor at Reason magazine and author of The United States of Paranoia, pointed out,

There’s a difference between thinking that Moscow may have hacked the Democratic National Committee and thinking that Moscow actually hacked the election, between thinking the president may have Russian conflicts of interest and thinking he's a Russian puppet . . . when someone like the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman declares that Putin “installed” Donald Trump as president, he's moving out of the realm of plausible plots and into the world of fantasy. Similarly, Clinton’s warning that Trump could be Putin's “puppet” leaped from an imaginable idea, that Putin wanted to help her rival, to the much more dubious notion that Putin thought he could control the impulsive Trump. (Trump barely seems capable of controlling himself.)61

The loose and politically tendentious nature of discussions, circulation of questionable leaks and dossiers complied by unidentified (p.95) individuals, and lack of serious evidence led a number of observers to conclude that the Russia story was more about stopping Trump than about Russia. The Russian scandal was symptomatic of the poisonous state of bilateral relations that Democrats exploited for the purpose of derailing Trump. US-Russia relations became a hostage of partisan domestic politics. As one liberal and tough critic of Putin wrote, Democratic lawmakers’ rhetoric of war in connection with the 2016 elections “places Republicans—who often characterize themselves as more hawkish on Russia and defense—in a bind as they try to defend to the new administration’s strategy towards Moscow.”62 Another observer noted that Russiagate performed “a critical function for Trump’s political foes,” allowing “them to oppose Trump while obscuring key areas where they either share his priorities or have no viable alternative.”63

The described lack of confidence was reflected in the exaggerated fear that Russia was capable of destroying the West’s values. However, Russia and Putin were neither omnipresent nor threatening to destroy the United States’ political system. A number of analysts, such as Mark Schrad, identified fears of Russia as “increasingly hysterical fantasies” and argued that Russia was not a global menace.64 If the Kremlin was indeed behind the cyberattacks, it was not for the reasons commonly broached. Rather than trying to subvert the US system, it sought to defend its own system against what it perceived as a US policy of changing regimes and meddling in Russia’s internal affairs. The United States has a long history of covert activities in foreign countries.65 Washington’s establishment has never followed the advice given by prominent American statesmen such as George Kennan to let Russians “be Russians” and “work out their internal problems in their own manner.”66 Instead, the United States assumes that America defines the rules and boundaries of proper behavior in international politics, while others must simply follow the rules.

(p.96) Russia’s basic motives remain defensive even when the Kremlin relies on assertive tactics. Russia’s assertiveness, even in cyberspace, is of a reactive nature and is a response to US policies. Experts observe that Russia’s conception of cyber and other informational power serves the overall purpose of protecting national sovereignty from encroachments by the United States.67 Rather than fighting a full-scale information war with the West, Russia seeks to increase its status and strengthen its bargaining position in relations with the United States.68 The Kremlin has been proposing to negotiate rules of cooperation in the cyber area since early in the twenty-first century. Motivated by an insistence on “cyber-sovereignty,” Russia regularly proposes resolutions at the United Nations to prohibit “information aggression,” In a 2011 letter to the United Nations General Assembly, Russia proposed an “International Code of Conduct for Information Security,” stipulating that states subscribing to the code would pledge to “not use information and communications technologies and other information and communications networks to interfere with the internal affairs of other states or with the aim of undermining their political, economic and social stability.”69

Overall, what the Kremlin challenges is the United States’ post–Cold War behavior that undermines Russia’s status as a great power. Although Russia is not in a position to directly challenge the United States and the US-centered international order, the Kremlin hopes to gain external recognition as a great power by relying on low-cost methods and revealing the vulnerability of Western nations. Russia’s capabilities and presence in global cyber and media space are limited, and the Kremlin is motivated by asymmetric deployment of its media, information, and cyber power.


(1) Some of the themes in this and next chapter are discussed in Andrei P. Tsygankov, “American Russophobia in the Age of Liberal Decline,” Critique and Humanism 49, 1, 2018

(2.) Sharon Burke, “If You Weren’t Already Worried about Russia, You Should Be Now,” CNN, March 25, 2018.

(3.) Donald Trump, Inaugural Address, January 20, 2017,

(4.) “[Putin] is really very much of a leader. I mean, you can say, oh, isn’t that a terrible thing—the man has very strong control over a country. Now, it’s a very different system, and I don’t happen to like the system. But certainly, in that system, he’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader” (Ryan Teague Beckwith, “Read Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s Remarks at a Military Forum,” September 07, 2016,

(5.) Krugman, Siberian Candidate.”

(6.) Michael McFaul, “The Real Winner of the House Intelligence Committee Hearing on Russia,”, Washington Post, March 24, 2017.

(8.) Thomas Friedman, “What Trump Is Doing Is Not OK,” New York Times, February 14, 2017.

(9.) Rachel Maddow Show, March 9, 2017. sInL5kyQklU.

(10.) Nicholas Kristof, “There’s a Smell of Treason in the Air,” New York Times, March 23, 2017.

(12.) Kaitlan Collins and Jeff Zeleny, “Trump Furious over Leak of Warning to Not Congratulate Putin,” CNN, March 22, 2018.

(13.) Philip Bump, “There’s Still Little Evidence That Russia’s 2016 Social Media Efforts Did Much of Anything,” Washington Post, December 28, 2017. For an opposing perspective stressing the Kremlin’s targeted message in battleground states, see Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Cyberwar: How Russia Helped Elect Trump (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018).

(14.) Jeremy Herb and Manu Raju, “House Republicans Break with Intelligence Community on Russia,” CNN, March 12, 2018.

(15.) “Despite Mueller’s Push, House Republicans Declare No Evidence of Collusion,” New York Times, March 12, 2018.

(16.) Scott McConnell, “Has Donald Trump Betrayed His Base?,” National Interest, September 2017.

(17.) Paul Sunders, “Donald Trump’s Foreign Policy: Working with Russia from a Position of Strength,” Valdai Club, March 2017.

(18.) Vladimir Frolov, “Why Russia Won’t Cave to Western Demands,” Moscow Times, May 3, 2017.

(19.) As cited in Aaron Maté, “What We’ve Learned in Year 1 of Russiagate,” The Nation, February 9, 2018.

(20.) Jenna Lifhits, “John Bolton’s Long History as a Russia Hawk,” Weekly Standard, March 22, 2018.

(21.) See, for example, Burke, “If You Weren’t Already Worried”; “Tough Action on Russia, at Last, but More Is Needed,” editorial, New York Times, March 27, 2018; “The Russian Expulsions Are a Good First Step. But Only a First Step,” editorial, Washington Post, March 27, 2018.

(22.) Janusz Bugajski, “Fight Putin with Fire,” Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2018 Others recommended a strategy of deterrence with clearly defined consequences for adversarial actions (Alina Polyakova, “The Next Russian Attack Will Be Far Worse Than Bots and Trolls,” Lawfare, March 20, 2018).

(23.) “Why Is Trump So Afraid of Russia?,” editorial, New York Times, March 22, 2018.

(24.) Walter Russell Mead, “Trump Isn’t Sounding Like a Russian Mole,” American Interest, February 24, 2017,

(25.) Virgil, “The Real Siberian Candidate and the Deep State,” Breitbart, December 19, 2016; Sean Hannity, “The Deep State’s Massive Effort to Destroy Trump,” Fox News, June 16, 2017.

(26.) Anna Popkova, “‘Putin Is Playing Chess and I Think We Are Playing Marbles.’ Vladimir Putin’s ‘Soft Power’ and the American Right,” International Communication Gazette, April 2017).

(27.) Ibid., 444, 446.

(28.) Leonid Bershidsky, “Putin Starts to Win American Minds, If Not Hearts,” Bloomberg, January 18, 2017. For an analysis of Putin’s global appeal, see Greg Simons, “Aspects of Putin’s Appeal to International Public,” Global Affairs 1 no. 2 (2015): 205–08.

(29.) Marlene Laruelle, “Russian and American Far Right Connections: Confluence, Not Influence,” PONARS Policy Memo, March 12, 2018.

(31.) Gary Leupp, “What If There Was No Collusion?,” CounterPunch, March 16, 2018. For a similar argument, see also Natylie Baldwin, “Acceptable Bigotry and Scapegoating of Russia,” Consortiumnews, March 15, 2018.

(32.) Justin Raimondo, “The New Cold War Is Here,”, March 5, 2018.

(33.) Glenn Greenwald and Zaid Jilani, “With Latest Syria Threats, Trump Continues to Be More Confrontational toward Russia Than Obama Was,” The Intercept, April 11, 2018.

(35.) Ben Norton and Glenn Greenwald, “Washington Post Disgracefully Promotes a McCarthyite Blacklist from a New, Hidden, and Very Shady Group,” The Intercept, November 26, 2016.

(36.) Burke, “If You Weren’t Already Worried.”

(37.) Masha Gessen, “The Fundamental Uncertainty of Mueller’s Russia Indictments,” New Yorker, February 20, 2018.

(39.) Blake Hounshell, “Confessions of a Russiagate Skeptic,” Politico, February 18, 2018.

(40.) Stephen Lee Myers, “Was the 2016 Election a Game of ‘Russian Roulette’?,” New York Times, March 14, 2018.

(42.) Jeffrey M. Jones, “Record-High 77% of Americans Perceive Nation as Divided,” Gallup, November 21, 2016,

(43.) Some scholars relate such polarization to the United States’ belated democratization and the emergence of a divided Congress in the 1970s (Robert Mickey, Steven Levitsky, and Lucan Ahmad Way, “Is America Still Safe for Democracy?,” Foreign Affairs, April 17, 2017).

(44.) Kristen Bialik, “Putin Remains Overwhelmingly Unpopular in the United States,” Pew Research Center, March 26, 2018,

(45.) “Clinton, Trump Clash In Bitter Debate, Spar over Russian Hacking,” Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Sep 27, 2016

(46.) Michael Crowley and Tyler Pager, “Trump Urges Russia to Hack Clinton’s Email,” Politico, July 27, 2016.

(47.) Ginger Gibson, “Clinton Accuses Trump of Being Putin’s ‘Puppet,’” Reuters, October 20, 2017.

(48.) Haliman Abdullah, “Hillary Clinton Singles Out Putin, Comey in Election Loss,” NBC News, December 16, 2016,

(49.) Hillary Rodham Clinton, Hard Choices: A Memoir (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014), 2.

(51.) Gabriel Debenedetti, “Liberal Group Launches ‘Moscow Project’ to Pressure Trump,”, February 22, 2017.

(52.) Evan Osnos, David Remnick, and Joshua Yaffa, “Trump, Putin, and the New Cold War,” New Yorker, March 6, 2017.

(53.) Morgan Chalfant, “Democrats Step Up Calls That Russian Hack Was Act of War,” The Hill, March 26, 2017.

(54.) Petra Cahill, “Dick Cheney: Russian Election Interference Possibly ‘Act of War,’” March 28, 2017,

(55.) Chalfant, “Democrats Step Up Calls.”

(56.) Gareth Porter, “How ‘New Cold Warriors’ Cornered Trump,”, February 25, 2017.

(57.) Following the resignation of Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, over not disclosing his meeting with Kislyak, the Kremlin recalled him and appointed Mikhail Antonov as new ambassador to the United States.

(58.) Richard Hofstadter, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Harper’s, November 1964,

(59.) According to some sources, Saudi Arabia donated more than $10 million to the Clinton Foundation before the elections (Amy Chozick and Steve Eder, “Foundation Ties Bedevil Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Campaign,” New York (p.135) Times, August 20, 2016). On the Ukraine connection, see Kenneth P. Vogel and David Stern, “Ukrainian Efforts to Sabotage Trump Backfire,” Politico, January 2017.

(60.) Justin Raimondo, “Rush to Judgment: The Evidence That the Russians Hacked the DNC Is Collapsing,”, March 24, 2017; Leonid Bershidsky, “Why Some U.S. Ex-Spies Don’t Buy the Russia Story, Bloomberg, August 10, 2017.

(61.) Jesse Walker, “Is the Trump-Russia Story an Octopus or Spaghetti?,” Los Angeles Times, March 24, 2017.

(62.) Masha Gessen, “Don’t Fight Their Lies with Lies of Your Own,” New York Times, March 26, 2017.

(63.) Maté, “What We’ve Learned.”

(64.) Mark Lawrence Schrad, “Vladimir Putin Isn’t a Supervillain,” Foreign Policy, March 2, 2017.

(65.) Arjun Kapur and Simon Saradzhyan, “For Russia and America, Election Inference Is Nothing New: 25 Stories,” Russia Matters, March 22, 2017.

(66.) George Kennan, “America and the Russian Future,” Foreign Affairs, April 1951.

(67.) Julien Nocetti, “Cyber Power,” in Tsygankov, Handbook of Russian Foreign Policy; Brandon Valeriano, Benjamin Jensen, and Ryan C. Maness, Cyber Strategy: The Evolving Character of Power and Coercion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018).

(68.) Andrei Tsygankov, “Russia’s (Limited) Information War on the West,” Public Diplomacy, June 5, 2017; Charles Ziegler, “International Dimensions of Electoral Processes: Russia, the USA, and the 2016 elections,” International Politics, October 2017.

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