Alongside revelations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election came limited recognition that Obama and his ilk were wrong to turn Romney’s prescient warning into a joke. But now, amid news of the bounty program and the NCSC’s warning of repeated Russian election interference, the Obama administration’s negligence has become even more apparent.
In light of the current political moment, appropriate criticisms of previous administrations seem trite. Under a president seemingly in thrall to various authoritarian leaders, during a mismanaged global pandemic, Obama’s foreign-policy missteps might appear undeserving of too much attention. But much like ideas, policies have consequences, and the Obama administration’s reckless handling of Russia paved the way for a resurgent Putin regime’s belligerence.
Where does that leave us now? In much the same place we were under Obama: saddled with a government that needs to wake up and take the Russian threat seriously. During the Trump administration, we’ve seen Democrats adopt traditionally Republican positions that the GOP has seemingly abandoned. The Democratic Party has become more open to free trade, signaled support for international institutions, and grown more hawkish on Russia and China. Though the Democrats’ about-face on these issues is certainly welcome, it is almost certainly born of partisanship, not philosophy. If Joe Biden defeats Trump in November, it will be up to him to prove otherwise — to heed the mistakes of the previous two administrations and meet the Russian threat head-on, even when there’s no obvious domestic political advantage to be had from doing so, because American national security depends on it.