Not that Barack Obama should be Republicans’ yardstick for proper presidential diplomatic behavior, but…
Pres. Obama phoning congratulations from AF-1 to Pres-elect Vladimir Putin of Russia.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) March 9, 2012
Granted, that call was made years before Russia went and interfered in one of our own elections, an operation so nefarious that Obama did, um, next to nothing about it.
Anyway, Maverick is grumpy, as usual:
“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.”
Nothing new for Trump. Congratulating Putin isn’t even the most obnoxious courtesy call he’s placed to an autocrat after a major political win. For what it’s worth, he’s not alone: France, Germany, and Japan had all sent congratulatory messages to Moscow before Trump chipped in. But you know what McCain would say to that. Lesser powers have no choice but to show Putin some respect, especially ones that are in Russia’s geopolitical orbit. The United States is, or should be, different. The UK, amid the Skripal poisoning fiasco, pointedly refrained from sending any well wishes until an independent watchdog ratifies that the election was legitimate. Why, if the United States stands in “absolute solidarity” with Great Britain in its confrontation with Russia, didn’t the White House do the same?
As for whether Russia’s election was a sham:
A study by Sergei Shpilkin, a physicist known for his election analysis, suggested that nearly 10 million votes had been falsified for Mr Putin.
Plotting the turnout against the number of votes for each candidate reported by every polling station, Mr Shpilkin found that in places where the official turnout was abnormally high, Mr Putin received an disproportionately large share of the vote…
Surveillance camera footage from polling stations captured numerous instances of ballot-stuffing. In some cases, electoral workers brazenly shoved ballots into urns, while in others they tried to slip in extra votes on the sly…
Vedomosti newspaper noted on Monday that the number of registered voters had increased by 1.5 million in the hours after the election. Although not all voters can be registered before election day, that number appeared unusually high.
Why would Putin care about an extra 1.5 million voters in an election he won by 50 points? Ah:
The turnout jumped from 60% to 67.47% in a few hours – that was to ensure that with Putin's 76.6%, he would have 50+% votes of total electorate – as the Kremlin wanted. Also, number of registered voters jumped by 1.5 million overnight – that was to cover all the ballot-stuffing.
— Euan MacDonald (@Euan_MacDonald) March 19, 2018
He almost certainly would have won even without the dirty tricks. He controls the media, he sidelines or outright kills his few prominent enemies, and he engages in power projection in Ukraine, Syria, and even the U.S. that’s designed to impress Russians with the idea that he’s restoring the country to Soviet-era levels of “strength.” How could he lose? The point of the election shenanigans wasn’t to rescue him from likely defeat, it was to show the natives that his authority is greater than ever and to show his critics abroad, to the extent that they take Russian election results seriously, that the people stand foursquare behind him. No doubt he could have tweaked the vote tally to make his victory even more impressive but there’s a sweet spot in which electoral margins shift from vaguely plausible and semi-impressive to completely implausible and ridiculous. A less sophisticated autocrat like Saddam or Kim Jong Un that doesn’t care about western opinion would notch 99 percent of the vote. Putin’s content with 70+ percent to create a simulacrum of an election that really was meaningfully contested.
Here’s Sarah Huckabee Sanders being asked if she thinks the Russian election was fair, and dodging. Trump evidently did not bring up the Skripal poisoning in his phone chat with Putin.
Sarah Sanders is asked whether the Russian election was free and fair: "We don't get to dictate how other countries operate." pic.twitter.com/kqEWvNFeOa
— Axios (@axios) March 20, 2018