Political analyst George Szamuely, author of "Bombs for Peace: NATO's Humanitarian War on Yugoslavia", has suggested that any possible electoral breakthroughs by US Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders may be tarnished by the “Russian interference” allegations.
Szamuely’s remarks come after US officials reportedly briefed Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders that Russia is attempting to meddle in the 2020 US presidential election and assist the senator’s campaign.
It, however, remains unclear “what form that Russian assistance has taken”, with Sanders being quick to clarify that he does not welcome such actions if the report is true, according to the Washington Post.
Szamuely said in this regard that the news about Russia's alleged interference in the 2020 US elections is “relevant because it is clear that the issue of ‘Russia’ will overshadow the upcoming presidential election, just as it did the 2016 vote”.
“There is no such issue of course. The United States is not involved in any conflict with Russia. The Russia issue is in reality an amalgam of toxic smears to be directed at political candidates out of favour with the political or military-security establishment. The issue is unlikely to go away anytime soon. It’s proven to be too useful”, he argued.
In April 2019, then-US Special Counsel Robert Mueller confirmed in a report that his inquiry had found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia ahead of the 2016 US presidential election. Russia, for its part, has repeatedly denied any claims of interference in the US political system, while Trump rejected the allegations as a political witch hunt.
Touching upon the Mueller report, Szamuely said that although the document “turned up nothing”, it had “not the slightest effect on American political discourse”.
“Almost the very next day, the Democrat-run House Judiciary Committee began impeachment hearings on the basis of the Mueller report. A few weeks after that, the House Intelligence Committee began impeachment proceedings, this time ostensibly on the issue of Ukraine. However, the real issue was of course Russia”, the analyst added.
Szamuely insisted that as far as the “Russian interference” allegations are concerned, Sanders is “playing defence here”, accepting the claims of the “intelligence community,” but declaring that it has nothing to do with him.
“Unfortunately for Sanders, it’s a weak argument because it ensures that any electoral successes he might enjoy in the campaign would be tainted by the allegation of ‘Russian interference’. No matter how much he may deny that he has anything to do with Russia, no matter how many times and how vehemently he may denounce [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, there will remain questions about the legitimacy of any of his electoral victories”, Szamuely asserted.
He also said that the “Russian interference” allegations, which started in April 2016, “not only served to derail President Trump’s agenda of improving relations with Russia but also served to call into question the legitimacy of his presidency”.
According to Szamuely, the fact that “no evidence has ever been put forward" to show how the Russians helped secure Trump’s 2016 election victory “didn’t really matter” because “the Democrats had a smear that they could use against Trump, all day and every day”.
“They have already impeached Trump once. They are clearly planning to do so again. And we can be sure that Russia will play some role in any charges Democrats will bring against Trump in the future. So, the Russia issue is very useful for the Democrats: They have an all-purpose excuse as to why they lost the 2020 election and they have something to occupy them for the next four years, namely, repeated impeachments”, the analyst said.
He remained downbeat about Sanders’ election campaign promises, predicting that the senator “would of course face ferocious opposition from the military-security apparat, from all of the Congressional Republicans and from within his own party”.
In this vein, Sanders would be “unlikely to prevail against so many powerful forces, particularly as he would have the Russia smears hanging over him”, Szamuely claimed, suggesting that the Democratic presidential hopeful “would be in a weaker position to fend off such attacks than Trump was”.
Trump, the analyst went on to say, was never perceived as a Russian agent, which is not the case with Sanders, “what with his honeymooning in the USSR, etc.”
What’s more, Szamuely said, “Sanders, unlike Trump, has accepted unquestioningly the claims of the intelligence ‘community’ that Russia is seeking to interfere in the U.S. election”.
It means that the senator “would have no effective answer to the charge that he owes his job to the Russians; in such circumstances, he would be even less inclined than Trump was, to do anything that could be seen to be helping the Russians”, Szamuely concluded.