MILLER: Why Hillary Clinton Might Be Right About Tulsi Gabbard

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 29: Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) arrives for a press conference at the 9/11 Tribute Museum in Lower Manhattan on October 29, 2019 in New York City.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

You won’t find me writing these words very often: Hillary Clinton might be right.

Allow me to explain. In recently calling presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard “the favorite of the Russians” and then implying that the Hawaii Democratic lawmaker is a “Russian asset” being groomed for a third-party run, Clinton touched a nerve in foreign policy circles that extends beyond the “bunch of [Russian] sites and bots” that the 2016 Democratic nominee claims are now supporting Gabbard in 2020. And it even goes beyond how Gabbard says she has no regrets for meeting with Russian-backed Syrian dictator and war criminal Bashar al-Assad in 2017.

Gabbard’s willingness to go rogue isn’t limited to her exploits in war-torn Syria. Much like she defied a U.S. State Department advisory by sharing tea and biscuits with Assad, Gabbard flouted American policy during September of the same year by visiting the Armenian-occupied territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, which the State Department explicitly “does not recognize” and which several U.N. resolutions affirm as part of Azerbaijan.

Nevertheless, Gabbard at the time lauded the “people of the Nagorno-Karabakh region” for exhibiting “shared [American-Armenian] values of freedom, democracy, and self-determination,” when in fact, sovereignty for Nagorno-Karabakh is a non-starter for Azerbaijan in any future peace talks with Armenia. Sound familiar? Gabbard’s notorious meeting with Assad ultimately isn’t all too different from her meeting with Nagorno-Karabakh’s unrecognized “president” Bako Sahakyan, a post-Soviet warlord who has links to Russian military intelligence and Middle East terrorists from Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. In other words, Sahakyan isn’t exactly the poster child for a trustworthy negotiating partner.

Circling back to the hubbub surrounding Clinton’s remarks, one of the most definitive litmus tests for being a “Russian asset” is serving the interests of Armenia, Russia’s de facto client state. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, the leader of Armenia’s so-called “Velvet Revolution,” has done nothing but perpetuate Armenia’s longtime status as the least independent of the post-Soviet states. Pashinyan has expanded Yerevan’s already-extensive military dependence on Moscow by acquiring the Russian Iskander ballistic missile system, while Russia’s security forces remain scattered across Armenia. If a picture tells a thousand words, the only image anyone needs to see in this regard is Pashinyan inside the cockpit of a Russian Su-30SM fighter jet. It seems, then, that associating Gabbard with Russia isn’t so far-fetched after all.

And when it comes to Gabbard’s roguish tendencies, it really does come full circle. Two times this year, Armenia deployed large teams of defense specialists and others to — all of places — Syria, under the guise of a “humanitarian” agenda which the U.S. sensibly condemned as undue “engagement with Syrian military forces.”

It’s also shortsighted to avoid taking into account the golden opportunity for Iran and Russia alike that’s opened up by the U.S. withdrawal from Syria — and Armenia must also be kept in mind on the Iranian front, as Yerevan continues to defy Washington by helping Tehran circumvent American sanctions and by paving the way for economic ties that could help Iran’s businesses increasingly penetrate Europe.

I wrote earlier this year that the mainstream media apparently ignore Gabbard’s propensity to sit at lunch tables with tyrants, warlords, and bloodyhanded strongmen. Yet sunlight is the best disinfectant, and Clinton’s comments have finally brought Gabbard’s disturbing moral compass (or lack thereof) to the forefront of public consciousness.

Of course, let’s not ignore Gabbard’s response to Clinton, whom the Hawaii congresswoman described as the “queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party.” Indeed, Clinton must bear a significant degree of responsibility for the Obama administration’s disastrous war effort in Libya, and her failed 2016 presidential campaign won’t soon be forgotten by her supporters who had viewed victory as all but a foregone conclusion.

At the same time, notwithstanding anyone’s views about Clinton, let’s not automatically dismiss her assessment of Gabbard. Although Clinton didn’t mention Armenia by name in her comments about Gabbard, the link from Yerevan to Moscow is unmistakable — making “Russian asset” a characterization that merits serious consideration rather than a reflexive rolling of the eyes.

Americans should be grateful, then, that Gabbard won’t seek reelection to Congress in 2020, regardless of the result of her presidential campaign. The more rogue legislators who depart Capitol Hill, the closer we get to sensible U.S. policy.


Paul Miller is president and executive director of the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. Follow him on Twitter at @pauliespoint.