Butina wasn’t just a gun rights fan who attended American University, romanced a veteran Republican operative, and pitched US-Russian collaboration at NRA conventions.
…In the immediate aftermath of the invasion and annexation in March 2014, Butina denounced retaliatory sanctions by the Obama administration and traveled to Crimea to promote the arming of pro-Russian separatists. Her efforts there included pledging support to a leader of a militia group that violently seized a Crimean news outlet it deemed “pro-American” and swiftly repurposed for a Kremlin propaganda operation.
…Butina’s role in Crimea raises additional questions about why the NRA—known historically for its hawkish “freedom loving” image—spent years getting close with a Russian national who was doing work hostile to US national security interests.
…In America, she enthused about gun rights and international friendship. But in Moscow, she used fervently nationalistic rhetoric to endorse the takeover in Crimea and called for backing Russian separatists fighting elsewhere in Ukraine. Ethnic Russians throughout the region, she said, were being culturally oppressed—a theme long pushed by Putin’s regime.
…During an audience Q&A at a political conference in Las Vegas, she asked about foreign policy. Specifically, she wanted to know whether the candidate at the podium might back off from “damaging” US sanctions against Russia.
The answer Donald Trump gave Butina was yes.