What had been a running subplot throughout the campaign is now front and center. It’s all about Russia. Russia’s relationship with the President-Elect. More specifically Putin’s relationship with Trump. And with Rex Tillerson, Trump’s surprise nominee for Secretary of State. It’s all about the Russian hack and how Trump opponents have now pinned their last desperate hopes on using the hack to convince electors to vote against the President-Elect on December 19.

It’s also about European allies – some a little more neutral in their allegiance to America than others – worrying about Russia’s aggressive moves in Eastern Europe and whether a the low-scale warfare between Russian and the Ukraine will flare up into all out combat. With dangerous consequences for Europe and NATO. Of course, Europe runs on Russian gas, so perhaps they will be somewhat cautious in their questioning of Rex Tillerson as Trump’s choice for State.

In other words, Tillerson’s nomination hearings will almost certainly become a hearing on Russia and it’s relationship to the new administration. Already GOP Senators McCain, Graham, and Rubio have expressed concerns about both the Russian hack and over Tillerson as nominee for State. And 52 – 3 = 49. Democrats are preparing all out warfare on the Russia theme, and will do everything they can to undermine Trump. During the transition, and during the nomination hearings.

Oddly perhaps, this puts the responsibility for managing this emerging conflict back on Putin himself and his regime in Moscow. Will he pull back on the constant low-scale attacks and bombardments in the Donbass region of Eastern Ukraine and on Cimea’s northern border? Will he merely pause long enough to provide just enough talking points in Washington to allow Tillerson’s nomination to survive what will be a tough hearing in Congress? But that’s assuming a whole host of objectives that Putin’s regime may or may not have. We honestly don’t know at this point exactly what those objectives are.

And as a backdrop to this, we of course have the intelligence community accusing Moscow of targeting their hacks at Hillary’s campaign in order to get Trump elected. A tough one to prove – how do you prove intention on the part of operatives in, or associated with, the Kremlin? And what information are American intelligence operatives willing to release to prove their point? And not damage Washington’s intelligence infrastructure – especially it’s cyber capabilities?

Because Democrats seem unwilling to accept that they lost the election on key issues, and on Hillary’s flaws as a candidate, they are now willing to sow disunity at a very crucial time in America’s electoral process – the transition. It is clear that many in government – from the CIA to the EPA – are Hillary supporters, and Obama fans. Tillerson’s nomination process may bring much of that latent hostility to the surface. Democrats will certainly do all they can to ensure this is the case. But at some point, they will have to come clean on whether they are defending America against Russia, or their own party against a President-Elect that beat them fair and square.

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