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This deserves a longer discussion - and I'll probably open up a can of worms with this - but there's something about the way this story is being played out that bothers me.


I've seen this story now in a number of venues, and all of them are playing it the same way: Putin/Russia/Kremlin sought to interfere in the European elections, buy influence in Italy, etc etc etc. /2
A few stories have also mentioned the criticism that Salvini and Lega are facing, akin to what Austria's Freedom Party faced back in May, for similar reasons. Maybe I'm missing something, but nobody is leading from that angle. And that's what bothers me. /3
I'm not here for the whatabout game. I don't like it any more than anyone else does. /4
Yes, the Kremlin is inserting itself in politics around the world in ways that are not calculated to increase democracy and good governance in those countries. /5
Yes, the Kremlin benefits from instability (to a degree, at least) in what we might broadly call the West, and a particularly from a breakdown in coordination in the EU. /6
And no, the Kremlin does not particularly care whether it (or its partners) break the letter or the spirit of our laws and constitutions in pursuit of its aims. /7
But none of this should be surprising. Right or wrong, this is the way the Kremlin believes the game is played. Why are we surprised that a government that won't play by its own rules won't play by ours? /8
What should be much more surprising and troubling is the increasing number of players in our own political establishments who are willing to sell out -- politicians and voters who no longer thing our own rules matter. That's the threat. /9
In other words, there are two ways to see this story. There's the NYTimes' way: "Putin has actively sought to destabilize the European Union by boosting nationalist, populist parties like the League." /10
Or there's this way: "Nationalist, populist parties like the League have actively sought the support of Putin in their effort to destabilize the European Union."

Frankly, that's the angle that scares me more. /11
I'm not trying to whitewash Putin's role in all of this. But we need to recognize that he's playing an opportunistic game. If Western centrist parties would do business with him (as they once would - witness Schroeder), he'd gladly jump into bed with them. But they won't. /12
Increasingly, however, our political establishments have come to be occupied by people who have so little sense of connection to their own countries that they feel both willing and compelled to seek support elsewhere. That's the threat. /13
This is an equilibrium of both supply _and_ demand. Ideology here is irrelevant. Both sides are opportunistic. If Moscow weren't playing ball, Salvini might be doing business in Beijing or Riyadh. Would that be any better? I don't think so. /14
Putin's role in this story -- while worth noting -- is incidental when compared to the role of people like Salvini or Strache or Le Pen or Trump. /15
If we didn't have politicians who were willing to sell out, Putin wouldn't have an opportunity to buy in. /END
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