The House Intelligence Committee Hearing: Missing Questions
Why does this matter? Many in Washington don’t appear to care what Vladimir Putin thinks, especially about U.S. efforts to promote democracy in Russia. More than that, many correctly believe that while each is a form of external interference in another nation’s domestic politics, there is a clear moral difference between U.S. democracy promotion and Russian efforts to undermine American democracy. The problem with this line of thinking is that our moral sensibilities are not an accurate guide to Russia’s conduct. If U.S. military forces attacked Russia, would the demonstrable moral differences between our two systems constrain Moscow in responding? Certainly not.
As a result, Russian efforts to interfere in U.S. politics were a predictable outgrowth of Russia’s long-held and well-known resentment of America’s engagement in Russia’s internal affairs. What deserves investigation is why neither the Obama administration nor Congress, which supported this policy on a bipartisan basis, put any serious effort into anticipating its possible unintended consequences and preparing for Russia’s responses. The U.S. government puts vast amounts of time, energy and money into military capabilities, planning and preparation, yet did almost nothing to prepare for political responses that should have been obvious elements of what Moscow clearly saw as political competition, if not political warfare, started by the United States following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
What is striking today is that Representative Schiff and many other Democrats apparently want to broaden and deepen the existing confrontation between the United States and Russia, without giving any thought to its possible consequences or what Washington might need to do to prevail, even now. How far are Schiff and other congressional Democrats prepared to go in confronting Moscow? How much defense spending will they support? What domestic programs will they cut to allow for that? And what is their game plan to prevail without jeopardizing other U.S. priorities or risking a nuclear war? These are the questions that responsible policymakers are obliged to contemplate.
Image: U.S. Capitol at night. Flickr/Creative Commons/Kyle Rush