Letter: It's time to retire the Trump/Russia conspiracy theory

If, as Larry Larsen suggests in his Dec. 8 letter, Vladimir Putin exerts full control over a lackey in the White House, the Russian strongman has an odd way of pursuing his interests.

Consider: A few of Trump’s more ambiguous statements aside, the president has pursued a more hostile policy toward Russia than any of his post-Cold War predecessors.

In April of 2017, he approved Montenegro’s accession to the NATO alliance, then attacked Russia’s client state in Syria with a volley of Tomahawk cruise missiles.

In August, he signed a sweeping sanctions bill to target Russian business interests, then closed multiple diplomatic compounds in an escalation of political tensions. Since, he has levied countless rounds of sanctions against Russian oligarchs.

On the European front, Trump has supported Macedonia’s accession into NATO, sold lethal weapons to Ukraine and welcomed a new military base in Poland to face down the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Meanwhile, rising U.S. coal and gas exports have edged out Russian energy in its main foreign market.

In Syria, U.S. troops killed nearly 200 Russian mercenaries in a firefight this February. In September, they waged a live fire exercise at the military base in At-Tanf to push back on Russian threats. And just days before, Trump envoy James Jeffrey committed the U.S. to the permanent occupation of Syria.

In short, these are not the actions of an administration hopelessly compromised by Russian interference. In contrast, we can ask what two years of tireless investigation has yielded for the collusion narrative. Seemingly no more than a Moscow business deal that never went through and a few run-of-the-mill campaign meetings in search of opposition research.

Even the charges Mueller has issued – against Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and several low-level campaign officials – relate not to collusion itself but to unrelated crimes like fraud and obstruction of justice. Manafort’s charges are over work he did on behalf of western (read anti-Russian) interests in Ukraine, and Flynn’s over an attempt he made to persuade Russia to work against its own interests in the United Nations.

Yet the Trump-Russian conspiracy theory still thrives in the absence of evidence, and its center-left proponents remain committed to undoing the democratic will of the American people.

For them, to admit that Trump’s political rise is the product of legitimate frustrations rather than a malign foreign conspiracy is to admit as well that their policies bear the largest responsibility for Trump’s election.

Liberal support for mass immigration – both legal and illegal – has revived a white identity politics characterized by its opposition to large-scale demographic change. Meanwhile, the chronic decay of the American industrial base has delivered the traditionally Democratic Rust Belt into Republican hands.

Unless the Democratic Party can abandon its cockamamie conspiracy theory and begin to focus on the real factors behind Trump’s victory, it may find itself in as poor a position as the GOP come 2020 and 2024.