Alan Feuer and Andrew Higgins, “Extremists Turn to a Leader to Protect Western Values: Vladimir Putin,” New York Times,
December 3, 2016.
Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman and Michael Birnbaum, “Inside Trump’s financial ties to Russia and his unusual flattery of Vladimir Putin,” The Washington Post, June 17, 2016.
What has been puzzling during Donald Trump’s campaign and post-election transition has been the billionaire’s utter refusal to say anything negative about Vladimir Putin or Russia.
He has not hesitated to dismiss the collective judgment of U.S. intelligence agencies which have found that Russia intervened in the election and tried to throw it to Trump, but he won’t criticize Russia or Putin.
The press has reported on Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign director, and his ties to Viktor Yanukovych in the Ukraine and others in Russia.
Michael Flynn, his national security advisor, has shown an affinity to Russia and Putin, sitting next to the latter at a conference, accepting speaker fees, and appearing on RT television, the state-owned propaganda operation. A warrior from Afghanistan, where he led intelligence for Stanley McChrystal’s killing machine, he may see Russia as an indispensable ally in the twilight crusade against Islam.
Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of State, has had a close relationship with Putin as head of Exxon-Mobil for many years. Tillerson opposed the imposition of sanctions on Moscow after Russia invaded and annexed the Crimea and invaded the eastern Ukraine. His world view has been shaped by the foreign-policy interests of Exxon-Mobil, not those of the United States.
Trump’s senior strategic advisor, Steve Bannon, is an exemplar of the alt-right, or at least a fellow traveler, who has been very sympathetic to Putin’s “defense of civilization” argument.
Trump’s son, Donald Jr., has been quoted as saying at a conference in 2008, that Russians had heavy investments in Trump’s business.
We can’t understand the extent of of that Russian influence because Trump won’t release his taxes.
How are we to understand Trump’s silence in the face of massive war crimes committed by Putin in bombing Aleppo and Syria, his soft-pedaling on Russia’s presence in the eastern Ukraine, and his dismissal of U.S. intelligence agencies’ findings about Russian intervention in the election?
To put it bluntly, why has Trump been so cozy with Putin and the Russians, while they have been undertaking the greatest campaign of subversion of Western democracies in Europe since 1945-48, when the Soviets sought to expand their domination on the Continent?
In the midst of this assault on the political independecce of Western countries and on both NATO and the European Union, an assault carried out by cyber attacks, massive disinformation campaigns, and other tools of subversion, Trump has not only failed to speak to the threat, but slso cozied up to its author, Vladimir Putin.
That is the same Vladimir Putin who is known as “the butcher of the Caucusus” (Grozny, Chechnya), the ruthless dictator of an authoritarian regime which has suppresssed the press and other independent media, jailed opponents, and killed leading sctivists (such as Boris Nemtsov in February 2015).
Trump’s diffidence, if not strong attraction, toward Putin and Russia is downright puzzling.
That is, it is puzzling until you remember that Donald Trump rose to political prominence with the racist “birther” movement and the support of the alt-right including David Duke and the Klu Klux Klan.
Trump’s white supremacist supporters look to Russia as the one great white power which might lead the struggle to defend and promote the white race.
Whether Trump shares their views, or is merely willing to give them tacit encouragement in his pursuit of power, the race factor seems to go far in explaining Trump’s coziness with Vladimir Putin and Russia.
To be sure, Trump’s earlier ambition to get involved in Russia with his businesses, and his current financial ties to Russia and Russians, also appear to have helped in creating a sweet spot for Putin and a blind spot for Russia in his understanding of U.S.. foreign policy and its objectives.
Today, he and his alt-right supporters share a deep affinity for Russia, if originally for different reasons. Those separate motivations seem to have fused in the 2016 presidential campaign. Now Trump may be extremely reluctant to antagonize his alt-right supporters. To do so could seriously jeopardize his prospects for re-election in 2020.
The sooner these grave considerations are recognized the better the chances will be that Trump can be contained, and prevented from giving up the crown jewels of the Republic to Putin and Russia. These include intelligence, operational details on military procedures and readiness, and other concessions against longstanding U. S. interests and policies, including strong support for U.S. and EU sanctions against Russia, and active support of NATO, the EU, and strong leaders in Europe such as Angela Merkel.
Russia, one must bear in mind, remains the greatest antagonist of America and its allies on the world stage today.
The Trenchant Observer