This is part of an ongoing series primarily focusing on the relationship between US presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russia. It is important, however, to note and to explore Trump’s relationship to Russia, Putin and the Kremlin and to place it in context to Hillary Clinton’s relationship with Russia. There are murky and unseemly, even disturbing connections between Russia and both of the presidential hopefuls, and that can become confusing for voters. Weeding through propaganda and outright distortions by surrogates and allies for both camps, as well as Russia, makes simple assessments appear difficult.

These are deeply partisan times. Any writer on the issue accepts the risk of drawing disdain and contempt from both sides regardless of the merits of the argument. Entrenched as either side is, neither is easily dislodged from assumptions and positions, no matter how persuasive the evidence to the contrary. Both sides are guilty of an almost cult-like rationalization of their own candidate and a total demonization of the opposing candidate.

It is also necessary to establish that the Russian government has clearly done more than merely take a side in the current election. If the evidence concludes, as much of it seems to do, that Russia, or Russian surrogates acting on behalf of Russia are responsible for the DNC email hack and release to WikiLeaks, they have now directly attempted to affect the election. Never before in US history has a foreign power so brazenly and openly acted to directly affect the outcome of a US presidential election. Only one candidate can rely that a foreign government is acting aggressively to undermine their opponent.

The issue hedges fully upon both candidates connections to Russia and Russian interests. While I have detailed Donald Trumps connections, and the media has concentrated on those, Hillary Clinton’s dealing with the Russians is not as widely known. She, like many others with the means and the connections have cashed in on the capitalist wild west of the often chaotic Russian  economic environment. Clinton’s own campaign chairman John Podesta’s connections to the energy firm Joule Unlimited has been touted as proof of duplicity, corruption and dealings with the Russia’s above and beyond Donald Trump’s pageant and real estate dealings. The headline, citing Rightwing extremist Breitbart News, at teaparty.org bears the ominous headline : “Report: Clinton Campaign Manager Podesta Company Bagged $35M from Russian Govt.” At the end of the piece’s 4 paragraph comes this:

SPECIAL: Donate today and help the Tea Party STOP the Hillary Crime Machine’s commandeering of America before it’s too late!

Clearly the piece, describing “Clinton cronies,” and so forth, is hardly a work of journalism, but red meat for Trump supporters. But is there truth that Joule Unlimited received  $35million on a deal to help create the Russian version of Silicon Valley at a place called Skulkovo outside Moscow? Context here is critical, as the Breitbart people attempt to cloud the issue with supposition and ominous innuendo. First, in 2015 the value of trade between the two nations approached $24 billion Dollars, with companies such as United Airlines, American, Google, Cisco and many others doing business in and between the two nations. That translates into tens of thousands of jobs. Should any deal between  officials in the US government and foreign governments receive scrutiny and even be subject to restrictions? Of course. The key is whether or not doing business, or being involved in a major trading partner affects policy, and more importantly, strategic US interests.

At the onset of the Ukraine conflict, as Russian troops seized control of Crimea, long viewed as within the territorial integrity of Ukraine Clinton compared the move to Hitler’s blitzkrieg against Eastern Europe. Trump, on the other hand, in a slap to Partnership for Peace ally Ukraine, as well as NATO partners, Trump heralded and defended Russia’s invasion.

By indications US strategic interests have not been compromised when it comes to what amounts to a very tenuous case against Clinton because of a business deal be only played the part of Board member a s part of. To the contrary, Mrs Clinton here, at least, as remained consistent in prioritizing US interests and in not crafting them to suit a relationship. In other words, she has placed US strategic and economic interests above them, rather than be swayed in the ego-massaging romance of Russian leaders angling to further Russian strategic interests.

That is  where the issue becomes critical and dangerous. Already, clouded by an odd relationship, in which Mr. Trump appears almost smitten with attention by the Russian leadership, he has taken and espoused positions fully at odds with US strategy and security. Ukraine, the Baltic States, Turkey, Poland, Bulgaria and other NATO members, US allies, trading partners or countries with which the US has made security promises and agreements with are already concerned that they can no longer trust in those agreements and commitments. Certainly that will affect relationships with every other trading partner and ally about whether or not the US will or can abide by its commitments.

That is extraordinarily dangerous to the US economically, militarily and diplomatically. In a perfect world there would be acute restrictions on the problematic revolving door between the public and private sectors, particularly in areas of strategic interest where money flows through too many murky channels, such as oil and gas. Public servants like Mrs. Clinton would be barred for a number of years from working for companies with any relationship to the US government. Further, there is the issue of money in politics. Until those are addressed we are left asking if the candidate will act at a time of crisis clearly with the interests of the nation as his/her utmost priority, or if they are being pulled and swayed by outside forces.  That is the difference.

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