Opinion: Trump is working hard to make Russia ‘great again’

The mainstream media doesn’t seem to want to talk about this, but it’s important that America and the world face what seems increasingly clear: Vladimir Putin’s best friend in the world — the person prepared to allow Putin to mount additional wars of aggression in Europe — is the leading Republican contender for president of the United States, Donald Trump.

On Saturday, during a rally at Coastal Carolina University, Trump ramped up his attacks on NATO, claiming he suggested to a European leader that he would encourage Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to member countries he views as not spending enough on their own defense:

“One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said, ‘Well, sir, if we don’t pay and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us? I said, ‘You didn’t pay. You’re delinquent.’ He said, ‘Yes, let’s say that happened.’ No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want.”

Trump’s comment puts into context his strong opposition to providing more aid for Ukraine, and why Republican lawmakers are now backing off such funding.

It’s a giant turnabout for the Republican Party. Shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, only 11 Senate Republicans voted against providing aid to Ukraine. This past Thursday, 31 Senate Republicans voted against it. (It’s unclear whether House Republicans will even permit a vote on the package.)

Trump is also promising that if reelected president, he’ll resolve Putin’s war against Ukraine within 24 hours. Putin says he “cannot help but feel happy about” Trump’s promise. Of course Putin is happy. Trump has indicated he’d trade away Ukrainian territory,

Trump, in turn, is pleased by Putin’s happy response. “I got along with Putin. Let me tell you, I got along with him really well,” Trump said. “And that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”

It’s a love affair made in hell: a vicious Russian dictator who detests democracy and a would-be American dictator who detests democracy. And the logic is inescapable: Putin rules Trump, and Trump rules the Republican Party; hence, Putin rules the Republican Party.

When Russia first invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Trump praised Putin as “a guy who’s very savvy,” and Trump characterized the invasion of Ukraine as “genius.”

Trump continues to cozy up to the Russian dictator. In a recent campaign speech, Trump even quoted Putin saying that the legal case against Trump “shows the rottenness of the American political system.” That Trump can get away with this, without anyone pointing out the rottenness of Russia’s political system under Putin, is evidence of how Putin’s and Trump’s anti-democracy movement has been normalized in America.

And it clearly is an anti-democracy movement — Putin and Trump against the major democracies of the West, including America. Last month, it was reported that during a private meeting in 2020, Trump went further than he did Saturday night. He told European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that “if Europe is under attack we will never come to help you and to support you.” And, “NATO is dead.”

What is Trump getting out of this? For years, Russia has been pumping disinformation into American social media and by all accounts continues to do so. I feel confident in saying that Russia is not doing it in support of Joe Biden.

While we’re at it, let’s not forget Trump’s and Putin’s favorite media mouthpiece, Tucker Carlson — the darling of America’s anti-democracy movement.

In Carlson’s video explaining his decision to interview Putin last week, Carlson asserted that Putin has been “misunderstood” and that Americans and other English-speaking people are unaware of what’s really happening regarding the war in Ukraine. “No one has told them the truth,” Carlson said. The English-speaking “outlets are corrupt. They lie to their readers and viewers.”

Putin’s purpose in doing the interview was to get the West to make a favorable deal to end the war — a deal exactly like the one Trump and Carlson have been touting: Cement Russia’s control of the Ukrainian territory it has already captured and put a more Russia-friendly government in Kyiv.

I’m old enough to remember when the Republican Party and its spokesmen were intensely anti-communist, anti-Soviet and anti-Russian. I remember Republican lawmakers blaming Democrats for allowing Russia to occupy and then defeat the revolution in Hungary, in 1956. I remember Republican lawmakers outraged about Russia’s invasion of Czechoslovakia to crack down on reformist trends in Prague, in 1968.

Now, a Russian president can invade neighboring Ukraine without any provocation –targeting civilians, killing and injuring hundreds of thousands — and what do Republican lawmakers do? They refuse to help Ukraine — encouraging Putin’s aggression elsewhere.

Why? Because of Donald Trump’s love affair with Putin, which turns on Putin’s obvious support for Trump in the 2024 election. And Trump’s increasing control over the Republican Party.

This is what the mainstream media ought to be screaming about — not that a former Trump-appointed Justice Department official turned special counsel thinks Biden’s memory is bad.

— Robert B. Reich is a columnist for Tribune Content Agency.


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