Image: Donald Trump. Stock Photo. Pixabay.com
I am one of the many residents of the former Soviet Union who has become upset with Donald Trump's signals that he would let the Russians stomp on its neighbors if he were U.S. president.
One of the most recent signs was Trump's pronouncement that the U.S. has its own human-rights problems, so it shouldn't presume to lecture other countries about theirs. He was speaking specifically about the murder of police in America.
A more alarming pronouncement was his statement that if Russia threatened to take over a NATO partner by force, he might let it happen if he were president. It would depend, he said, on whether the partner had met its NATO commitments -- presumably the commitment to spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense.
At that same time that Trump is sounding like he's in Vladimir Putin's pocket, the state-controlled Russian media has been playing up Trump's pronouncements like they were the Ten Commandments that God had just given Moses.
It was apparent to me that the Russian media was actively trying to get Trump elected.
I cringed, convinced that not just Putin but also every other dictator in the former Soviet Union would love a Trump presidency. That way the United States would stop harping on their corruption, human rights abuses and other shortcomings -- and let them kill and imprison political opponents and subjugate neighbors with impunity.
And then I got Tweets that confirmed my suspicion that the Kremlin is trying to get Trump elected.
I did some tweeting last week about how Trump and his campaign sidekicks stand to gain financially from a Trump presidency. I'm convinced it could lead to them getting sweetheart deals from the Russians in exchange for allowing the Kremlin to get away with any aggression in the region -- and beyond -- that it wants.
Two tweeters that were obvious Russian trolls responded to my tweets not by addressing the issues I raised about Trump and his election campaign manager Paul Manafort but by attacking Hillary Clinton.
Manafort has already shown he would have no problem feeding at the Kremlin trough. He made tons of money for 10 years from former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a shameless kleptocrat whose image Manafort tried to burnish.
One of the two Russian trolls, who had a Russian name but said she is a U.S. citizen, responded to my tweets with links to two news stories that undermined Clinton.
One was a piece about Canadian big shots who, after selling the company Uranium One to the Russians, donated millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation.
The implication was that Bill and Hillary Clinton would sell out the United States by accepting money from people who had delivered a strategic asset -- a company that makes nuclear material -- to the United States' arch-enemy, Russia.
The implication in the second story also was that Mrs. Clinton would allow the Russians to take other strategic American assets.
It was a piece about the Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman's plans to invest in the American health-care system.
The tweeter wanted to create the impression that President Barack Obama -- and Mrs. Clinton, if she succeeded him -- would sell out American's health-care future to the Russians, too.
One of the Russian trolls had a Russian Twitter name but said she was an American citizen. The other also had a Russian name and claimed to be based in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.
I was skeptical of the Tbilisi claim. That's because most Georgians despise the Russians for trying to intimidate their country into not joining the European Union and NATO and for fighting a war with Georgia in 2008 that led to Georgian separatists taking sizable chunks of their country.
It was interesting that when the troll who is supposedly an American citizen tweeted, she copied the woman who is supposedly living in Georgia as if the Georgian were her troll handler.
I decided to call a spade a spade. When I twice asked the supposedly American tweeter how much the Kremlin was paying her to troll, she stopped tweeting on grounds that I wanted just to besmirch and not engage in debate.
I concluded that my accusation that she was a Russian troll made her so uncomfortable that she decided to scurry away like a rat to the sewer.
I realized after this encounter that trolls have also become part of the Russian effort to get Trump elected. Putin has mobilized all his propaganda resources toward that goal, and thousands of trolls are part of the club.
Given that the Kremlin's campaign on Trump's behalf is so obvious, I thought I'd ask its campaign organizers a question: Why hide it -- why not own it?
I even have a branding suggestion for you, rooted in the fact that most of the dictators in the former Soviet Union are ex-Communists -- everyone from Putin, who sent his troops into Georgia and Ukraine to keep them from aligning with the West; to Islam Karimov, the leader of Uzbekistan, which has one of the world's worst torture records; to Serzh Sargsyan of Armenia, who forced through a new constitution that allows him to serve for years beyond what the previous constitution had provided for.
Given my assumption that once a Communist, always a Communist, I suggest that Putin form a Trump campaign group called Commies for Trump.
In the spirit of egalitarianism, he wouldn't need to limit its membership to dictators from the former Soviet Union.
There are plenty of nasty current and former Marxist dictators in South America, Africa and elsewhere.
All could lend a hand to the Trump election campaign.
If the Donald were to get elected, think of the deals he could get on oil, gas, minerals and other resources these dictators command.
The only downside would be that he would have to spend time updating his book "The Art of the Deal" to include a chapter on dealings stemming from political influence.
But that would be a small price to pay, after all.
Armine Sahakyan is a human rights activist based in Armenia. A columnist with the Kyiv Post and a blogger with The Huffington Post, she writes on human rights and democracy in Russia and the former Soviet Union. Follow her on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/ArmineSahakyann