Russian-born National Rifle Association (NRA) activist Maria Butina was just sentenced to 18 months in prison on the grounds that she was illegally operating as a "foreign agent" of her homeland after she was arrested last summer and accused of trying to influence the US' domestic political processes on behalf of another country.
Her alleged actions supposedly went beyond those of a political activist and eventually became those of a "foreign agent", though it can be argued that what she did doesn't really differ much from the activities of those engaged in Track II diplomacy, which is the people-to-people contacts between foreign professionals (usually from academia, think tanks, or NGOs) aimed at improving bilateral ties outside of the formal framework of state-to-state relations.
Countless individuals are engaged in Track II diplomacy all across the world, including inside the US itself whenever American entities invite their foreign counterparts to visit, give speeches, and network with people in the country. There's nothing conspiratorial about that and it goes a long way towards building trust between different countries by helping them better understand one another at the most basic level, but in Butina's case, it was regarded as a crime and she was swiftly made an example out of.
Her persecution didn't occur in a vacuum, though, since it was initiated at the height of the Russiagate hysteria last year when Trump's "deep state" opponents were doing whatever they could to convince Americans that their President was really a Russian puppet and that their country was infiltrated by untold numbers of "foreign agents".
Trump recently decried the Russiagaters as coup plotters who sought to illegally take down the US' democratically elected and legitimate government, and common criticisms of them made by many Americans is that their zeal resembles that of cult members indoctrinated with extremely fringe and ultra-radical beliefs.
Continuing with the metaphor of the Russiagaters being cultists, it can be said that Butina was the last lamb sacrificed at the Russiagaters' altar since it's extremely unlikely that they'll claim any more victims after Mueller's much-awaited report proved that no so-called "collusion" between Trump and the Russians ever took place. Her arrest was a deliberate provocation by the President's foes that he himself had nothing to do with, though therein lays one of the many problems with this case.
Trump knows that Butina's persecution and treatment in prison are unfair, but he's powerless to do anything about it because it would be political suicide for him to pardon her before the 2020 elections. Her 18-month sentence means that she'll be released right around that time too so he couldn't pardon her after the vote even if he wanted to, though she was credited with the nine months that she already served so she'll probably be out of jail before then anyhow.
The President's "deep state" enemies thought that arresting her would provoke Russia into taking reciprocal measures against Americans in the country that could then be used to pressure Trump into escalating in a tit-for-tat fashion that might conceivably never end until relations between the two Great Powers were formally broken off, which is what the Russiagaters likely wanted.
Even so, Russia should be commended for not taking the bait and refusing to worsen relations with the US for no reason at all, wisely sensing that Trump himself wasn't responsible for Butina's persecution but that it was being carried out by his "deep state" foes in the FBI and other sections of the American permanent bureaucracy.
Her case illustrates a striking point, however, and it's that even political wars between countries lead to casualties, with the American "deep state" civil war being responsible for ruining Butina's life. This young woman was sacrificed by coup-plotting cultists in order to provoke an escalation in the New Cold War, though her suffering won't be for nothing since it shows the extreme extent that the "deep state" was willing to go in order to improve the optics of their conspiracy theory against Trump and therefore discredited them in the eyes of the average American.
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