Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump (Credit: AP/Andrew Harnik/Nati Harnik/Photo montage by Salon)
Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for US president, is Vladimir Putin’s “most useful idiot” not because he is the agent of the Kremlin as some have suggested, Andrey Piontkovsky says, but rather because he believes what he says about Russia and thus threatens “the end of the free world as we have known it.”
In a commentary for the Apostrophe, Piontkovsky says that Trump’s willingness to accept Putin’s Anschluss of Crimea and his unwillingness to defend NATO members in the Baltic region in the case of a Russian attack cannot be dismissed as “campaign rhetoric.” They are something much worse.
The average American voter, he points out, “isn’t very much interested in Ukraine or the Baltics” and so talking about these issues in this way at worst means “losing the votes of the Ukrainian and Baltic communities.” And that shows that what Trump is saying reflects “his deep foreign policy convictions.”
“In general,” Piontkovsky continues, “Trump is Putin’s most valuable agent in America,” one more valuable than any the KGB ever had there. And his greatest value is that “no one recruited him” and therefore “it is impossible to unmask him” for what he in fact is. And that is this, the commentator says.
Trump is “simply an exceptionally useful illiterate bourgeois idiot” who “perfectly sincerely” wants to achieve the goals “Putin dreams about: the exit of the US from the world arena, the dismantling of NATO and the handing over of Ukraine to the complete control of Putin.”
In short, Piontkovsky says, “Trump is an idiot who considers himself a patriot of America.” He is thus unlike his closest aides who have worked for Russia and have financial interests in it. “They know for what and for whom they are working and in every way support the insane fantasies of their illiterate chief.”
The Republican candidate is “a seriously ill man, a paranoid in love with himself who is completely illiterate when it comes to issues of foreign policy. [In Russia,] he wouldn’t have become even the head of a rural council.” His success in attracting supporters thus raises questions about the political sophistication of the American voters.
Of course, Piontkovsky continues, “Trump’s readiness to the open surrender to Putin of the European allies of the US is to a certain extent a continuation of a definite trend in Obama’s policies.” The current president told “The Atlantic” last spring that “Russians want to rape Ukraine more than we want to defend it,” and that the West has to deal with that reality.
Obama’s remarks show that “such attitudes are quite characteristic for the American political class.” But as president, Obama has not acted on them whatever he may ultimately believe. Trump in contrast is campaigning to make those impulses the center of his approach to the world by playing up isolationism with his adoption of the old slogan of “America First.”
The danger that Trump could come to power is “quite real. In any case, one cannot exclude it,” even if each day brings fresh evidence of why he should never be allowed to gain office. And the fact that he is so close to Hillary Clinton in the polls raises the possibility of an extremely dangerous scenario.
“Imagine for a minute,” Piontkovsky says, “that somewhere in the middle of October in America occurs a mega-terrorist act with the obvious participation of Islamists, a large number of victims, and Barak Husseynovich as always trying to deny this and saying that Islam here is not involved and that it is a beautiful religion of peace and so on.
That would bring an enormous number of people over to Trump’s side, the Russian commentator says.
If Trump comes to power, it will be “a colossal victory for Putin, a victory which the Soviet Union as a superpower during all the years of the Cold War was not able to achieve.” Indeed, “the coming to power of Putin-Trump is a threat not only to Ukraine but a threat to the entire world.”
It would be “the end of the West and the end of the free world as we have been accustomed to understand it.” It is thus time, Piontkovsky says, to recognize the danger and to call things by their proper names lest Putin-Trump come to power in the United States later this year.
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