One way to look at the recent election in the United States is that Russia (allegedly) subverted our democratic process to ensure that Trump would win. The facts seem to point in that general direction, although we can’t know how much influence Russia really had.




Another way to look at the election is that Russia did a big favor for the American public by preventing Clinton from becoming president. That interpretation depends entirely on your opinion of Clinton. But it too fits the facts. One assumes Russia’s motives were to help Russia, not the United States. But we might have benefitted anyway.


Clinton saw Russia as an adversary. I confess my ignorance on this topic – and maybe you can set me straight in the comments – because I can’t think of any reason Russia and the United States should be considered natural enemies. Both countries want to defeat ISIS. Both countries want peace and prosperity. Neither claims ownership of any of the other’s territory. I see the prospect of good relations with Russia as a way to make some money for both countries and defeat ISIS too. That doesn’t seem so bad.


If Russia did interfere with our elections in a meaningful way, obviously that is a hole we need to plug. But this is an unusual situation because their alleged actions look more like the work of a sneaky ally than an enemy. The likely outcome of their alleged hacking is that we’ll have better relations with a major superpower and a better chance of defeating ISIS. 


One trick of persuasion that I have sometimes used involves treating an adversary like a friend until they turn into a friend. I’ve never seen it done on a country-to-country basis, but it works great in person. If you tell someone you are on their side, and you act that way, it is hard for them to keep you on the enemy list. I don’t know if this method of persuasion works for countries, but this is the perfect place to test it. 


Obviously this style of persuasion would not work in situations where there is something tangible at stake, such as competing claims for the same territory. But Russia and the United States have more interests in common than in conflict. In this particular case, Trump can change the frame from adversary to ally if he chooses to do so. And that would probably have the effect of making all parties act that way.