Social Media is Useful but it can Complicate Official U.S. Policy

Social media has penetrated every sphere of today’s life, including politics. Many politicians and government officials use public or private social media accounts to provide information, express their views and in the case of politicians to stay in touch with constituents. However, some online activity is not beneficial nor wise especially when it pertains to international relations.

The most obvious examples of instigating political conflict on social media are connected to the current US President Donald Trump, and his tweets about Russia and Vladimir Putin. Twitter has become the unofficial communication channel of our current president because, apart from the official statements President Trump gives to the press, he seems to comment on every issue by writing a tweet. He began mentioning Putin in his tweets long before the election, in 2013. He has posted many tweets praising Putin’s handling of international affairs. His tweets raised many questions from the press and his Democratic opponents on the nature of his relationship with the Putin. Since the Ukrainian crisis, US-Russian relations have deteriorated. The sanctions imposed on Russia in 2014 are in force today. Nevertheless, Trump continues to praise Putin and maintains that he wants improved relations with Russia.

Trump was never known for his tact, so it is no wonder his tweets cause concern. Moreover, Trump’s tweets are often contradictory. An example was the infamous incident involving Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington, who allegedly met with some of the president’s administration representatives, Flynn and Sessions, during the campaign. Since many assert that Sergey Kislyak was one of Russia’s chief spies, it was assumed that Russia was interfering with the electoral campaign. Russia, of course, has denied these allegations. One of Trump’s tweets said the following: “I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I’ve already given my opinion…” However, we do not know what Trump’s opinion really is because in some of the tweets he agrees that Russia was indeed meddling and in others he claims that no one knows or it’s hard to say.

While diplomats try to find solutions and ways to dialogue with countries, some of whom are adversaries, comments by elected officials on social media cannot be wise nor helpful because this information (or dis-information) can be used as a weapon to stir up conflicts among countries. The information posted on Twitter only causes confusion and leads to further questions and uncertainty over our policies.

However, paying close attention to the social accounts of our elected officials is revealing.