I am a big fan of hypotheses. I spent many years abroad running down terrorist threats and hunting enemy spies, and a working theory as to what is happening on goes a long way toward helping you organize data and navigate in a world composed of shades of gray. Here's the thing about hypotheses, however. You can't fall in love with them.
A hypothesis can help you find your way forward. It can also be a problem. When you start ignoring evidence and cherry-picking facts to support your hypothesis you are in trouble. What was a help in an investigation becomes a trap.
Witness the "Donald Trump is a Russian Agent" mass hysteria sweeping much of the world's media. That the Russians hacked numerous targets inside the United States, just as they have in the past hacked countless other American institutions and government agencies, seems clear. That the Russians engaged in some rather amateurish and ineffectual efforts at steering public opinion seems clear as well. Where is the evidence that the President himself was involved in any of this or that he is now under any degree of Russian influence?
The seemingly endless Mueller investigation has to date produced exactly nothing in the way of evidence of collusion. Perhaps most importantly, however, the actions of President Trump, his actual policy decisions, seem completely at odds with the notion that he was somehow installed in power to do Putin's bidding. In fact, quite the opposite; his actions in regard to Eastern Europe and Syria in particular, areas of extreme sensitivity to the Russians, suggest just the opposite.
The United States has now agreed to sell Poland, a nation on the frontline of Russia's attempts to reestablish the hegemony it enjoyed in the days of the Soviet Union, state of the art American-made Patriot anti-aircraft missile batteries. This sale is intended to help Poland upgrade its military capabilities and explicitly to give it the capacity to down Russian aircraft in the event of a conflict.
The Russian reaction to this sale gives a clear indication of just how threatening it is. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov stated after the sale was announced that Patriot deployments were part of a U.S. plot to surround Russia with missile defense systems "under the pretext of mythical threats to security". It bears worth noting that the deployment of Patriot missile systems to Poland was announced immediately after the expulsion of more than 100 Russian diplomats (spies) by the United States and its allies.
The Poles are now negotiating with the United States for the purchase of a wide range of follow-on military systems. These include advanced radars and additional interceptor missiles. Sales of Patriot missiles have also been approved recently to Sweden and Romania. All of these sales are in response to the threat posed by Russian aircraft.
For years the nation of Ukraine attempted unsuccessfully to get the Obama administration to sell it weapons for use in countering the Russian aggression on its eastern border. Having lost the entire Crimea to a Russian invasion in 2014, the Ukrainians are desperate for assistance in preventing a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine proper. President Obama steadfastly refused all Ukrainian requests for lethal aid. President Trump has reversed that policy in a big way. The United States is now selling Ukraine large numbers of Javelin anti-tank missiles, capable of killing the most advanced Russian main battle tanks.
The Javelin is the most advanced portable anti-tank weapon in the world. Popular Mechanics commented on the decision, calling it "an audacious geopolitical step" and wrote: "The Javelin is one of the deadliest anti-tank missiles ever designed and will bolster Ukraine's defenses in its military showdown with Russia. The sale is aimed squarely at Russia's large and powerful tank fleet." After detailing the Javelin's specs, the magazine noted: "Javelin missiles will offset Russia's tank advantage. Highly mobile and concealable in forested and built-up areas, Javelin will present a serious challenge to Russian forces."
Russia's reaction to the announcement of the sale speaks volumes. "The United States has crossed a line by announcing its intention to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine," Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Ryabkov said on December 23, 2017. He warned: "U.S. weapons are capable of leading to new casualties in our neighboring country, and we cannot remain indifferent to that."
The former Soviet republic of Georgia, a victim of Russian aggression as well in recent years, is also now being sold the same Javelin anti-tank missiles. As in the case of Ukraine, Georgia has long sought these weapons, but the Obama Administration refused to make them available.
Earlier this year American forces and those from 18 other nations carried out massive military exercises in Eastern Europe designed to simulate a response to a Russian invasion of Eastern Europe. A multi-national battle group under US command is now specifically focused on a response to any Russian move against its former Warsaw Pact allies. A new US Army headquarters is now located in Poland as part of efforts to shift the focus of NATO eastward to the Russian border.
Not satisfied with periodic deployments of troops or the presence of a headquarters unit, Poland is now actively seeking the full time basing of an American armored division on its soil. Discussions regarding this possibility are underway. The Poles, looking to sweeten the pot, have indicated that they will contribute $2 billion toward the cost of constructing the necessary facilities.
Norway, which already allows the United States to preposition tanks and other heavy equipment on its soil, appears to be following suit. The Norwegian government has asked the United States to double the number of US Marines stationed on its soil, and discussions regarding timing and logistics are underway. The US government is also now seeking to build facilities in Norway for the basing of US fighter aircraft.
All of these moves are part of a newly aggressive and forceful American effort to counter Russia in Eastern and Northern Europe and to, in effect, move the old line of confrontation, which ran through the middle of Germany during the Cold War, several hundred miles east and that much closer to Moscow. None of these measures quite have the clarity of American actions in Syria however.
In February of this year a battalion of Russian mercenaries in Syria, there at the direction of Vladimir Putin and supporting Russian efforts to keep Assad in power, launched an attack on American forces. The American troops, in contrast say to the flaccid reaction to the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, reacted immediately and forcefully with ground fire, artillery and air strikes. American casualties were virtually nil. In contrast, the Russian battalion was effectively annihilated.
There have been no further cases of Russian aggression against our troops in the region.
Maybe I just don't understand what kind of Russian agent President Trump is. I think it considerably more likely, however, that the facts speak for themselves. This President not only is not under the influence of Vladimir Putin, he is doing what President Obama refused to do for eight years. He is standing up to Russia. He is reasserting American influence in the world and he is making clear to Russia that if it chooses to act aggressively it will be met with overwhelming force.
If you're a Trump hater, it's time for a new hypothesis.