MOSCOW – Email scandals have plagued Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party nominee for US president, throughout her campaign. First, there was the revelation that Clinton, as Secretary of State, had used a private server for official business, resulting in an FBI investigation that chastised her for being “extremely careless.” Now hackers, believed by the US to be working for or on behalf of the Russian state, are thought to be the source for Wikileaks’ publication of a slew of Democratic National Committee emails revealing DNC leaders’ support for Clinton during the primaries. Russian hackers are also suspected of intruding upon the Clinton campaign’s servers.
Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic primary, Senator Bernie Sanders, dismissed the brouhaha about her private server early in the campaign. But Clinton’s opponent in November’s election, Republican nominee Donald Trump, has embraced the hackers’ effort to discredit Clinton – just as he has, it seems, embraced the country responsible for the hacks. The question is whether Russian President Vladimir Putin is, as suspected, actually working to derail Clinton’s campaign and get Trump elected.
The two men’s international bromance is well known. Trump has complimented Putin’s leadership frequently, and has been complimented in return. He has also expressed an interest in building deeper ties with the Kremlin, and said that he would consider accepting Russia’s annexation of Crimea and lifting the sanctions that were imposed in response – all without asking Putin for anything in return.
Perhaps most unsettling, Trump has called into question America’s automatic defense of NATO allies such as the ex-Soviet Baltic states, whose independence Putin has questioned. When Newt Gingrich, one of Trump’s foreign-policy gurus, called Estonia “the suburbs of Saint Petersburg,” he implied that Putin could have free rein with Russia’s neighbors.