Sputnik: Maria Butina's lawyer has called the charges against her a misuse of law. How justified are the charges, in your view?
Joe Quinn: Butina is effectively a lobbyist for her right to bear arms organization in Russia, and also for her patron I suppose – Alexander Torshin. And sure Torshin might have some kind of shady dealings in his history, but they're no worse than many other US and European politicians. The allegations that Butina and Torshin were trying to network in the US are probably true. They may have also have had some small or ineffective attempts to establish contacts between Team Trump and Russia. But that's kind of par for the course in politics in both the US and Russia, not to mention around the world.
There's no reason to believe that Butina and Torshin wanted anything other than to have improved relations between the US and Russia – between the [then] incoming Trump administration and Russia. For the 'deep state', the [forces] that run the US behind the scenes, that's a serious crime – trying to establish positive relations between the US and Russia.
That said, generally speaking, in the history of US lobbyists and influencers in other countries, the fact is that their intent is usually not so positive. They're not usually interested in implementing peaceful relations between countries. They're usually up to no good. It's well-known that US intelligence agencies as well as private individuals working on behalf of the US have been involved in trying to prevent certain governments from coming to power, even up to the point of overthrowing other governments.
So I get your point that there's massive hypocrisy on the part of the US to accuse one Russian of getting up to some nefarious activity in the US when that has been the kind of bread and butter of US foreign policy for the past 70-80 years. It's amazing hypocrisy.
Sputnik: Do you think what Butina was doing really warranted her registration as a foreign agent?
Joe Quinn: On the face of it, based on the available information, no, I don't think that's the case. But of course we saw over the past year with the whole anti-Russian hysteria, you had RT and Sputnik being forced to register as foreign agents. So there's obviously a propaganda war going on here. But in terms of Butina, if that's her only crime – that she didn't register as a foreign agent, that she's working for the Russian government, fair enough, they can accuse her of doing that. But there would have to be some disclosure around that fact, and all the details of what she was actually doing; and anybody making that accusation, like the FBI, will have to prove that she was working on behalf of the Russian government.
Joe Quinn is an internet essayist, researcher and author. The views expressed by the observer are those of the speaker, and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.