"My assessment is that it’s definitely part of something bigger." Such is the pronouncement from the man who spent 30 years leading the CIA's Russian operations in a Washington Post article about some American conservatives' new ally: Russians. The article opens with an anecdote about the president of the National Organization for Marriage, who thought of the Soviet Union with wariness as a child of the '80s but has since found kindred spirits in Moscow, which he has visited four times over four years. He sees a "real push to re-instill Christian values"; a conservative Nashville attorney agrees, "The value system of Southern Christians and the value system of Russians are very much in line." The Post sees it as emblematic of a "significant shift ... in recent years across the Republican right."
The Post spends some time delving into the relationship between Alexander Torshin, a figure in Putin's party who went on to hold a top position at the Russian central bank, and Maria Butina, an activist who now studies at American University. The two Russians have fostered a gun rights movement in Russia and made connections with NRA/Second Amendment counterparts here (they've also been at events where they've briefly met Gov. Scott Walker and, in 2015, Donald Trump). Butina insists she has zero ties to the Russian government. That former CIA chief, Steven L. Hall, is doubtful Putin would be cool with their gun efforts and thinks something smells bad. "Is it possible that these are just well-meaning people who are reaching out to Americans with shared interests?" he asks. "It is possible," he admits, but "I don't think it's likely at all." Full article here. (Read more Russia stories.)