International Affairs

Our democracy is crumbling — and Putin is smiling

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Amid the reported revelations that President Trump may have attempted to obstruct the investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, by telling then-FBI Director James Comey “I hope you can let this go; ” many are appropriately asking what this means for Donald Trump and his presidency.

But we should be equally concerned about what this means for our country.

This all comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly said he would be willing to provide the U.S. Congress a transcript of the conversations that President Trump had with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak — conversations in which current national security adviser H.R. McMaster confirmed included Trump sharing classified information.

The United States and the West are under siege by Russia — from both without and within. Putin probably doesn’t know whether to laugh at what he has done to our country or to cry in joy.

Either way, he’s likely reveling in what he believes may achieve his ultimate revenge.

{mosads}Revisionist powers are trying to undermine the liberal international order and rewrite international rules and norms in their favor, through politics, diplomatic maneuvering, economic warfare and military actions. 


However, Putin knows that challenging the post-World War II order and the resolve of Western institutions is not sufficient. He knows that he ultimately has a weak hand that he needs to play well. That is why he is working to undermine the U.S. and the West from within.

To do this, Putin has identified our central, strategic vulnerability: our deep, internal divisions.

The most decisive battle in this war, thus far, was the 2016 presidential election. Through targeting the very essence of our democracy — our elections, and an election for the highest office in the land, at that — Putin amplified and broadened the narrative that it’s not only corrupt leaders that are the problem, the problem is the system itself.

In other words, the system is rigged.

Putin believed that through selectively leaking information and injecting disinformation, or “fake news,” into our open, political discourse, he would be able to make us question the very fundamentals of our republic: our ideals, our institutions, our processes, our leadership.

Putin has recognized that our internal divide, between elite and non-elite, macro and micro, urban and rural, global and local, represent key, strategic vulnerabilities for the United States.

The electoral victory of Donald Trump further revealed this reality, and the fallout continues.

We are a divided country. Americans are disillusioned and afraid. And our foundation is broken. 

If we do not take action now, Putin may achieve his ultimate revenge: revenge for the fall of the Soviet Union, through the fall of the United States as we know it.

We must shore up our internal cohesion: economically, politically, socially. This will require a paradigm shift in our culture and a true change in our political dialogue, including a re-focus toward the smallest economic, political and social units in our society.

Putin correctly assumes that our republic is only as strong as our ideals, our commitment to our institutions and our connection to each other. We must not allow him to have this strategic vulnerability. 

The fight of our time and our national purpose in this moment must be to protect Western, democratic institutions and rebuild and renew the foundation of our country.


Alex Gallo is senior associate at theCenter for Strategic and International Studies and editor of He served as a professional staff member on the House Armed Services Committee for five years. He is a West Point graduate and combat veteran and a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School. His work has been published by The Washington Post, National Review, The Huffington Post, The Hill and Foreign Affairs

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags 2016 election Cold War Donald Trump Russia Soviet Union

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