For people who care about the future of Ukraine and the United States, there is reason to be worried. Indeed, terrified.
After years of Republican leadership against a potential Soviet and later Russian threat to Western liberty, the current nominee for president is a man who has openly, repeatedly and emphatically expressed his admiration for Vladimir Putin. Donald J. Trump admires an unrepentant Stalinist whose dream is to restore the Russian Empire and to crush Ukraine’s independence.
In a statement that sent even many Republican diehards for the exits, Mr. Trump suggested that he might not honor America’s pledge to defend a NATO member that came under attack. In fact, Mr. Trump has questioned the value of NATO altogether.
While Western sanctions may be inadequate, they have punished Russia for its aggression and forced its economy into a tailspin. Now, Mr. Trump is suggesting that sanctions be lifted entirely.
He would recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Mr. Trump has yet to utter a single word condemning Mr. Putin’s aggression against Ukraine, whereas Hillary Clinton has been a fierce, consistent critic of Mr. Putin and an outspoken defender of Ukraine’s sovereignty.
It is impossible to equate Secretary Clinton’s shortcomings with Mr. Trump’s recklessness and lack of trustworthiness. Despite a relentless smear campaign against her that dates back to the 1990s, Mrs. Clinton’s lifelong commitment to public service, her passionate devotion to children’s rights and women’s equality are basically an open book. The release of tens of thousands of e-mails and the Russians’ hack of the Democratic National Committee failed to reveal anything that might even remotely qualify as a prosecutable offense. The chant to “lock her up” calls to mind medieval cries to “burn the witch,” and has about as much legal basis.
For all the concern regarding the Clinton Foundation, the fact is that this foundation has repeatedly won the top four-star Charity Navigator rating as an exemplary charity, providing disaster relief, humanitarian aid and life-saving HIV treatments for millions of people in the U.S. and around the world. No money from the foundation goes to Mrs. Clinton’s family or campaigns.
In keeping with tradition, Mrs. Clinton has released 12 years worth of tax returns, while Mr. Trump, with trademark arrogance, refuses to release any of his returns to public scrutiny. His contempt for the average American taxpayer is clearly evident as he boasts that not paying income taxes on his own part “is smart.”
The Trump Organization brings in undeclared millions of dollars through ongoing international business relationships and overseas shareholder status. Among the countries where the Organization has deep financial ties are India, Russia, Ukraine, China, Brazil, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Which interests will prevail: The huge financial interests of the parties in each country? Or the national interests of the U.S.? Would Mr. Trump and his family suddenly divest themselves of all these foreign holdings should he win the presidency? How could they? Their lifestyle depends on it.
Whatever Mr. Trump is hiding is anyone’s guess, but given his history of lavish overspending on his hotels and casinos, his multiple bankruptcies, the multiple lawsuits brought against him for his refusal to pay contractors and small businesses for honest work, voters should at least pause to think about his business ties to Russian mobsters who have invested heavily in his real estate. The leverage that Mr. Putin could have over Mr. Trump in the White House could be devastating to America’s national interests.
Mr. Trump’s willingness to follow Mr. Putin’s example in perpetuating massive disinformation – what is commonly known as “The Big Lie” – is no less terrifying. Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels famously said: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
Mr. Trump has not only lied repeatedly and shamelessly. He has doubled-down on his lies when confronted by the facts. For years, Mr. Trump repeated his fully discredited claim that Barack Obama’s birth certificate was forged, or that he witnessed Muslims celebrating 9/11 in New Jersey, among other fantasies.
Like Mr. Putin, Mr. Trump has found that lying is not only convenient, it is effective. It is also addictively entertaining. With every lie, millions of his followers continue to shower him with adulation as America’s savior.
Mr. Putin has made no secret of his wish to see Mr. Trump in the White House. Pro-Russian sympathizers have penetrated the upper echelons of Western countries before. But a pro-Russian Mr. Trump in the White House would be Mr. Putin’s ultimate Trojan Horse – the ultimate triumph of his spy-craft and his global disinformation campaign.
What can we expect from a Trump presidency? Given Mr. Trump’s unbridled ego and Goebbels’ chilling quote, we should remember that Mr. Trump has said that he considers authoritarianism “cool.” He once told an interviewer that the Tiananmen Massacre was an appropriate response to the Chinese pro-democracy movement.
As Ukrainian Americans, we know how our forefathers suffered under authoritarianism and earlier “cults of personality”– whether perpetrated by right-wing extremists like the Nazis, or left-wing totalitarian Soviets. We should be the first to sound the alarm about demagogues that demonize entire groups (whether Jews or “kulaks,” Mexicans or immigrants) as a means of solving a nation’s problems.
Mr. Trump’s extremism and his appeals to violence, racism and authoritarianism should have no place in America’s democracy.
Alina Kytasty Kuzma