At the outset of the Trump presidency there seemed to be an early optimism within the Kremlin, that a new relationship would ensue. The optimism was supported by statements uttered before and immediately after the election by president Trump. They seemed to coincide with a wide range of policy objectives that Russia had sought to assert on the US for a long while.
Within the larger scheme of things, these objectives included the return to a treatment of Russia as an equal partner, a sort of détente based on balance of power and equality echoing the Soviet era arrangement, the reduction the US role in the Atlantic Alliance and the providing of European security via NATO, establishing a post-truth information space or in spy parlance, disinformation, while at the same time discrediting independent truth seeking media, weakening the US intelligence community; a sort of grand bargain which excludes the consent of America’s European allies.
Those who belittle the Atlantic Alliance and NATO while supporting xenophobic nationalist movements contemptuous of the EU post World War II order, are playing right into the strategy of divide and conquer of present day Russia. There are presently Trojan horses all over the EU and the barbarians are inside those horses waiting to exit and destroy the citadel of freedom and democracy. They are recognizable by their neo-fascist ideology that smells of a racist kind of White supremacist ethos and civilization.
The way Putin covers it up is by hiding under the pious mantle of Russian Orthodox Christianity and contrasting it to the value-less corrupt bureaucratic politics of the EU, all but forgetful of the ideals and vision of its founding fathers.
The prospects of these objectives coming to fruition seemed to be realized when Russia began to come across as a better friend to the Islamic world than its enemy, the US with its travel bans enacted by Trump’s executive orders.
These aims were never in any way challenged by Trump, if anything he appeared to endorse them, which of course raised suspicions as to his motivations, leading to allegations, reinforced by meddling in the 2016 US presidential election with disinformation and cyber-warfare of money dealings and compromise that might induce him to do Moscow’s bidding.
Was Trump implementing Russian policy? The question is currently being investigated by US intelligence agencies, including the FBI, despite the sacking of its director.
The first stumbling block to this rosy scenario by Putin and company appeared with chemical attacks in Syria and Trump’s decision to respond with a clear message via missile strikes. That response was rather unexpected. The more cynical analysts have speculated that it represented an opportunity for Trump to distract and show that he was his own man and that Russia had nothing on him. The Russians are wondering if Trump can be relied upon to always act in Russia’s best interests. Perhaps he was the kind of man who, as a consummate narcissist, could only be relied to act only in his own best interests.
Comey’s “termination” carried out as if it were another episode of the TV show “The Apprentice,” could represent another blow for the Kremlin’s confidence that it could establish a mutually beneficial relationship with the US. The man may be too unpredictable and volatile for any kind of beneficial relationship.
On the other hand, could it be that the man is too compromised? That the effects of this atmosphere of suspicion, paranoia and scapegoating may in the long run yield ever diminishing returns? That the sacking of the FBI director is nothing else but an attempt to head off any investigation of his own with Russia?
While sowing further discord and dismay in US government agencies, the Kremlin may well be worrying about the timing and the style of the “termination.” It is undoubtedly a rather clumsy move suggesting incoherence and even panic, drawing even further attention by the intelligence agencies, Congress and public opinion at large, to the investigation into Trump’s Russian ties.
Of course, whatever the underlying motivations may be, the ultimate aim for Russia is to further weaken the US national security apparatus, already in turmoil because of a dysfunctional relationship with its commander in chief. That kind of dysfunction and distrust of one’s own intelligence services must be a tremendous asset for any US adversary, never mind Russia.
In any case, there is now less enthusiasm for Trump in the Kremlin but the Russians must still be congratulating themselves that the present occupier of the White House is a man who, through misguided actions can do much damage to the security of the US and its allies, even without being a conscious agent of Russian policy. After all, the results are what count. The very language of Putin reveals it. He seems unconcerned for the image of a responsible and visionary leader, more prepared to act as a rogue state out to protect its own security from real or perceived threats from the West. In its authoritarianism and bullying he very much resembles his nemesis in Washington. The two deserve each other. What seems to be more important than democratic ideals for Putin is the projection of Russia as a main global competitor, and anything that helps in that regard, such as the weakening of the US, is welcomed and encouraged. Meanwhile China is waiting in the wings.
Note: This article has already appeared recently in Ovi magazine.