Monday, July 23, 2018

Why Trump Has Such a Soft Spot for Russia

I for one continue to believe that the Trump campaign both colluded with Russia in 2016 and that Vladimir Putin in all likelihood has damaging blackmail information he is using against Donald Trump.  These conclusions are fully in keeping with how Trump has run his often shady real estate activities for decades.  Similarly, it is totally in keeping with how Putin and the Russian intelligence services have done business for decades as well. Lies, underhanded and illegal activities have been the norm for Trump and Putin.  Why expect anything different now.  Interestingly, Andrew Sullivan makes the case in a piece in New York Magazine that even if by some fluke Trump isn't under Putin's thumb, Trump would nonetheless be enthralled by Putin and seeking to take a wrecking ball to western civilization.  Trump has no morals and he views everything as a zero sum game where someone losses so that another can win.  Of course, that one who wins is Trump and his similarly morally bankrupt sycophants.   Here are excerpts:
The slackened jaws, widened eyes, and general shock that greeted his chuffed endorsement of the Kremlin over Washington this past week were understandable but misplaced. Everything Trump did in Europe — every horrifying, sick-making, embarrassing expostulation — is, in some way, consistent, and predictable, when you consider how he sees the world. It’s not a plan or a strategy as such. Trump is bereft of the attention span to sustain any of those. . . . The lies come and go. But his deeper convictions really are in plain sight.
And they are, at root, the same as those of the strongmen he associates with and most admires. The post-1945 attempt to organize the world around collective security, free trade, open societies, non-zero-sum diplomacy, and multicultural democracies is therefore close to unintelligible to him. Why on earth, in his mind, would a victorious power after a world war be … generous to its defeated foes?
There’s nothing in it for him to like. It has empowered global elites over national leaders; it has eroded national sovereignty in favor commerce and peace; it has empowered our rivals; it has spread liberal values contrary to the gut instincts of many ordinary people (including himself); . . . and it has unleashed unprecedented migration of peoples and the creation of the first truly multicultural, heterogeneous national cultures.
He wants to end all that. He always hated it, and he never understood it. That kind of complex, interdependent world requires virtues he doesn’t have and skills he doesn’t possess. He wants a world he intuitively understands: of individual nations, in which the most powerful are free to bully the others. He wants an end to transnational migration, especially from south to north. It unnerves him. He believes that warfare should be engaged not to defend the collective peace as a last resort but to plunder and occupy and threaten.
He’s the kind of person who thinks that the mafia boss at the back table is the coolest guy in the room. This is why he has such a soft spot for Russia. Its kleptocratic elites see the world in just the same way. And if you wanted to undo the international system created by the U.S., an alliance with Russia is the first step you’d take. Aligning with Moscow against London, Berlin, and Paris is critical to breaking up multilateral institutions like the E.U. and NATO. Trump is not reticent about this. His trip to NATO included the first-ever threat by a U.S. president to walk away from it entirely, and to condition Article 5 on prompt payment of dues. His visit to the U.K. began with an attempt to undermine the government of Theresa May for her attempt to prevent the hardest of Brexits. He backs the new populist anti-immigrant government in Rome, because it too threatens a common European migration policy. And he is indifferent to Russian meddling in Western elections and media because it is designed to aid exactly those forces that Trump supports, from Brexit to Le Pen, and the Trump wing of the GOP (which is now, of course, simply the GOP). Yes, it’s perfectly possible that he knowingly accepted Russian help in defeating his opponent in the last election, and is even now encouraging Russia to help him again. But that’s simply the kind of unethical thing Trump has done for years, without batting an eyelid. He sees no more conflict here than he did in seeking Russian funding and German loans for his businesses.
It seems to me he is maddened by the Mueller investigation not just because it may cast some doubt on the legitimacy of his election, but because it has impeded his attempt, alongside Putin, to reconstruct a new world order on nationalist, rather than internationalist lines.
And he knows he is immune to impeachment, because his cult followers control a third of the Senate for the foreseeable future. What he wants from Putin is simply what he has always said he wanted: an alliance to advance his and Putin’s amoral and cynical vision of world politics. Putin acts with impunity on the world stage, invading Crimea, all but annexing parts of Ukraine, poisoning enemies in England, devastating civilians in Syria, discrediting his democratic rivals — all of it amounting to Trump’s wet dream of what being a strongman is. Putin mirrors Trump’s domestic politics as well: the cultivation of the religiously orthodox and the socially conservative in defense of a kleptocratic cult. [I]f I were an Estonian or a Montenegrin I’d be nervous, wouldn’t you? If I were a German, I’d be unnerved. If I were still British, I’d be very leery of door handles. There’s no Uncle Sam to look to for help anymore. The Americans are on the other side.
And we know now that the whole Kabuki drama in which we keep asking when the GOP will resist this, or stop it, or come to its senses, is simply a category error. This is what the GOP now is. It’s an authoritarian, nationalist leadership cult, hostile to the global order.
It is not an attack on America, but on a version of America, the liberal democratic one, supported by one of the great parties in America. It is an attack on those institutions that Trump believes hurt America — like NATO and NAFTA and the E.U. It is a championing of an illiberal America, and a partnering with autocrats in a replay of old-school Great Power zero-sum politics, in which the strong pummel and exploit the weak. Trump is simultaneously vandalizing the West, while slowly building a strongman alliance that rejects every single Western value.

Be very afraid.  Of course, what is most frightening is the number of Americans - especially Republicans - who are perfectly fine with this destruction. They prefer to indulge their racism and bigotry or to fill their coffers with lot at the expense of the many with no thought that at some point they themselves may out live their usefulness to despots. I fear for the world in which my grandchildren will grow up. Decency, morality, and individual rights may be deemed worthless unless the majority of citizens acts to take back America in November.

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