There’s not a baby boomer alive today who didn’t grow up during the Cold War. So we can all understand a certain amount of suspicion about, if not downright antipathy toward the Soviet Union’s aspiring successor, Russia. But BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs covered both the Soviet Union and Russia and writes in this Boomer Opinion piece that Donald Trump— himself a baby boomer— seemingly missed all that.
“Russia, Russia, Russia.” There is little we have heard more from the lips of Donald Trump than that. “There has never been anybody,” he claims, “so tough on Russia,” expanding it even more recently to, “Maybe tougher than any other president.”
To which we can only say, “Yeah, right!”
Tough, as in putting a hold on assessments by the Department of Homeland Security about Russian disinformation campaigns, according to a former director of intelligence for the DHS just last week.
Tough, as in failing in late July to even ask Vladimir Putin, his godfather in Moscow, about credible reports— reinforced by American intelligence— that Russia was paying bounties to the Taliban to kill American troops.
Tough, as in deflecting a thousand page report by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee about Russia’s schemes to sabotage our elections. His specious answer when asked about it in a broadcast interview last month by Axios’s Jonathan Swan was, “You know, it’s interesting, nobody ever brings up China.”
Tough, as in pulling out of northern Syria late last year, abandoning our allies the Kurds, and all but inviting Russia to replace us with, “Others may want to come in and fight for one side or the other. Let them!” Which they did.
Tough, as in failing to condemn Russia’s internationally illegal annexation of Crimea, and even more egregiously, as in holding up almost $400-million in military aide to our ally, Ukraine, right in the middle of its war to keep Russia at bay. Which opened the door to more Russian aggression against its former Soviet state. Which hopes to become a member of NATO. Which we lead.
And in one of Trump’s most recent gifts to his godfather in Moscow, tough, as in reducing the strength of U.S. soldiers in Germany, which has been one of Putin’s dearest dreams. To quote Alexey Naumov of Moscow State University, discussing it on Russian television’s version of 60 Minutes, “Trump is still ours.”
MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell framed it all this way: “When you think of all the people Trump has betrayed in his presidency and his life including all his wives, it’s all the more impressive that he has never betrayed Putin.”
Think about this: President Trump has, on some key questions of national security, publicly disagreed with his intelligence experts, with his diplomats, with his generals (“a bunch of pussies” he called them in front of reporter Bob Woodward). But he has never, ever, publicly disagreed with anything that came from the lips of President Putin.
To the contrary. After he supposedly spoke to Putin in Helsinki about 2016 election interference, he told reporters, “I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” Wow, that’s good enough for me!
Maybe it wouldn’t matter if Russia shared our values. But it doesn’t. There’s a reason why, like the Soviet Union before it, Russia has always been an adversary. Its gains come directly from our losses. There’s a joke I used to hear when I’d go in to cover the Soviet Union: “Why do KGB officers make such good taxi drivers? Because you get in the car, and they already know your name and where you live.” I’ve reported from Russia since then, and that hasn’t changed.
And maybe it wouldn’t matter if Trump trusted our friends too. But he has trashed them— from Germany’s Merkel to France’s Macron to Canada’s Trudeau— far more than he has uttered a single scathing word about Putin (or other autocrats like him), a man who will crush his opponents, sometimes brutally, without losing a night’s sleep.
So how does one explain Trump’s ominous affinity for Vladimir Putin, which sometimes puts Russia’s interests ahead of ours? Well, according to Woodward’s new book Rage, Trump’s former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats “continued to harbor the secret belief” that Putin knew something compromising about Donald Trump— “kompromat” is the word in Russian. In other words, “that Putin had something on Trump.”
From indecent conduct in a Moscow hotel room to dishonest conduct in a Moscow business deal, the theories about why Russia’s president can blackmail America’s have been out there for years now. But whatever it is, if there is anything at all, it led Coats to wonder, “How else to explain the president’s behavior?”
When it comes to Donald Trump and Russia— or “Russia Russia Russia” as he angrily puts it— he’d like us to accept his assurance that “There’s nothing to see here, folks.” But the fact is, there is plenty we can see, right out in the open. And maybe even more that we can’t.