Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump continues to gain ground on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in recent polls with the U.S. presidential election now just five days away in a contentious election season that has witnessed Russian interference through cyber attacks against the Democratic National Committee that is widely viewed as a deliberate effort to boost Trump’s chances.
According to a Real Clear Politics average of major national polls on Thursday, Clinton has just a 1.7 percent lead (47 percent to 45.3 percent) over Trump from 10/22- 11/1.
On the campaign trail, Donald Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has jailed journalists in Russia, calling him a “strong leader” and saying if elected he would like to team up with Putin to take on ISIS in Syria.
Trump fails to comprehend that Russia has different political objectives in Syria than taking out ISIS as he naively believes.
Trump lacks foreign policy experience and seems to be unaware that Russia’ s military campaigns in Syria have not targeted ISIS and instead are primarily focused on rebel groups, including moderate ones supported by the U.S. and Arab allies, that ultimately seek to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad whose administration has been accused of firing on innocent civilians in Syria.
Russian has strategic interests in having President Assad remain in power in Syria
Russia has military bases in Syria, including a navy facility in Tartus.
During the past week, Russia sent an aircraft carrier which passed through the English channel headed for Syria along with its entire Northern fleet, including the Admiral Grigorvich frigate to Syria’s waters, according to AM-Almasdar News.
Last month, Russia ratified a new treaty with Syria that gives the Kremlin its first permanent air base in the Middle East which comes as tensions between Washington and Moscow are nearing cold war levels.
Russia appears to be strengthening its military capability in advance of the U.S. presidential election where Hillary Clinton is still favored to win.
Clinton is viewed by foreign policy experts as taking a more hawkish stance towards Russia in Syria and across the globe.
Clinton has called for the U.S. and its allies to enforce a no-fly zone in Syria which the Obama administration has been reluctant to do.
Russia wants the U.S. to stop sanctions that are targeted against Russia and have hurt its economic interests.
Russia is facing sanctions for its incursion in Ukraine after it annexed Crimea in 2014 and stands accused of supporting pro-Russian separatists in southeast Ukraine.
A surface to air BUK missile that brought down Malaysian Airline Flight 17, killing 298 passengers in Ukraine, was brought down with a missile from Russia, according to Dutch led investigators from the Joint Investigative Team (JIT).
In July, Donald Trump told ABC’s This Week host George Stephanopoulos that if he were president, President Putin would not send his military forces into Ukraine.
Trump was reminded by host George Stephanopoulos that Russian troops had already been there since 2014.
“O.K., well, he’s there in a certain way,” Trump said.
“But I’m not there. You have Obama there. And frankly, that whole part of the world is a mess under Obama with all the strength that you’re talking about and all of the power of NATO and all of this. In the meantime, he’s going away. He take… takes Crimea” Trump added.
Trump has talked about defunding NATO on the campaign trail, criticized NATO members that have failed to contribute their fair share on defense, and has been indifferent about whether he would come to the defense of NATO Baltic countries that border Russia in the event of Russian aggression.
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has Russian ties and was removed from the Trump campaign following reports that identified him receiving undisclosed payments from a pro-Russian political group.
Manafort was involved with lobbying efforts on behalf of pro-Russian Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych and former Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Russian President Vladimir Putin would stand to benefit if Donald Trump is elected to the Oval Office.
Besides sending out the message that he’s not fully on board with NATO, Trump has come out in favor of Britain leave the European Union and has called himself “Mr. Brexit.”
During an August campaign event in Mississippi, Trump gained support from Nigel Farage, British leader of the Independent Party, who helped lead the Brexit movement.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has a better chance of seeing sanctions lifted with Trump in the White House.
Putin has nostalgic longings to return Russia to its Soviet era status as a superpower across the globe which would occur more likely if NATO is weakened and the European Union is divided.