However, serious questions need to be asked about her trip:
- Why did Russia Today (which is widely recognized as a propaganda tool of the Russian government) invite Jill Stein to speak as "part of panel of foreign policy experts", given that she's never held elected office and has no foreign policy expertise?
- Why did Vladimir Putin invite her to a state dinner (and to sit at his table), given that such an honor is usually reserved for heads of state, foreign dignitaries, and other, comparably-important heads of state?
- What value do Russia Today and Vladimir Putin see in Jill Stein?
In a recent New York Times op-ed, Michael Morell, the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, substantively pointed out that, as a "career intelligence officer", Vladimir Putin is trained to identify and exploit people's vulnerabilities. Mr. Morrell thus essentially contends that Donald Trump is Vladimir Putin's "useful idiot". With this contention in mind, why aren't people discussing the possibility that Vladimir Putin is also using Jill Stein as a "useful idiot"?
Consider Jill Stein's curious opinion that Hillary Clinton is more dangerous than Donald Trump (despite her recognition of him as a right-wing extremist). Knowledgeable observers have also continually called him out as a fascist (see additional call-outs here, here, here, here, here, and here). This reality should inspire people to ask "How intelligent can somebody who imagines that a right-wing, fascist extremist is less dangerous than Hillary Clinton really be?".
Even if one ignored Jill Stein's seemingly misologistic sense of comparison, there are also the matters of her seemingly messianic perception of herself as uniquely able to vanquish both neofascism and neoliberalism and her support for paranoid, quack hypotheses concerning genetically-modified
organisms, vaccines, and wifi. Do quirks like this seem like something Vladimir Putin would interpret as signs of intelligence?
The Boston Globe even goes so far as to ask "If Jill Stein is so smart, why does she keep running [for President]?". (This, apparently, is a question that Jill Stein concedes even her own siblings ask). Could this question's answer be that Jill Stein keeps running for president because she isn't smart?
Could the real reason she keeps running for president be that her supporters keep deluding her into thinking that she could actually be elected president? In this particular case, could she be the naive victim of a Russian Svengali who is deliberately feeding her unrealistic hopes of winning the American Presidency in order to game the American election?
Vladimir Putin is, evidently, actively trying to influence the 2016 United States Presidential Election.
He must, then, realize the potential usefulness of deluding Jill Stein into thinking that she should run for President. She is, after all, tapping into the feelings of voters who, dissatisfied with both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, desire sweeping change. Putin must also realize that American votes would consider voting for a third party candidate, that Jill Stein has a lengthy history of losing elections, that her third-party candidacy presents a serious risk of getting Donald Trump president, that a comparable third-party candidate [Ralph Nader] cost Al Gore the 2000 election. Even Donald Trump, who literally confessed that "all [he knows] is what's on the internet" has made it unequivocally clear that Jill Stein would siphon votes away from Hillary Clinton (who, in turn, is the only candidate who legitimately threatens his path to the White House).
"So Jill Stein helps get Donald Trump get elected. How does that make her useful to Vladimir Putin?", people might ask. One could easily cite Donald Trump's threat to withdraw support from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a potential foreign decision that would be immensely beneficial to Russian interests. Likewise, Vladimir Putin likely recognizes Donald Trump's seeming lack of a plan for defeating ISIS as evidence that he lacks the strategic fortitude to resist any of Russia's plans for Europe, Asia, or the Middle East.
The idea of the Russian government duping idealistic, well-intentioned but myopically-naive Americans into being unwitting Russian agents is not unprecedented. As pointed out in the critically-acclaimed book True Believer: Stalin's Last American Spy, Noel Field was a State Department employee whose disgust with Great Depression era levels of unemployment motivated him to romanticize and embrace communism as source of all the answers to America's woes.
While Noel Field's usefulness as a spy (and, on at least one known occasion, an assassin-assistant) is far more serious than usefulness Jill Stein would present as a patsy, his legacy does present an interesting question: if using America's ambitious naifs against it worked once already, why wouldn't the former-spy President of Russia try this tactic again?