For Putin, Trump is not an end in himself but a means to weaken the US and the West

Donald Trump

 

2016/11/12 • Analysis & Opinion, Politics, Russia

In the wake of Tuesday’s election in the United States, all too many commentators in the West appear to have forgotten that Vladimir Putin has been backing Donald Trump not because they are soul mates but rather as a means to a much larger end: the weakening of the US and the destruction of key institutions of Western integration like NATO.

Putin may prove to be wrong in assuming that Trump will be an effective means to that end, but it is clear the Kremlin leader is far more pleased by the impact of the conflicts that have broken out in the US and by speculation in Western capitals about Washington’s loss of influence than simply by having Trump on his way to the White House.

At least that is suggested by the Schadenfreude of most Russian news reports about the anti-Trump demonstrations and the plans for a referendum on Californian independence as well as by the enthusiastic support Moscow media have given to all discussions in the West suggesting that Trump’s election will weaken US influence and Western alliances.

And it is also suggested by three new commentaries — “Trump and Revolutionary Moods in America,” “Clinton Preparing A Color Revolution in the USA,” “A ‘Hand of Putin’ Despite All? How the Russian President Discovered America for Americans” – that point to a larger and longer range Russian policy.

None of this is to say that Putin isn’t pleased to have someone in the White House who is at odds with so much of the American establishment and the establishment of Western countries. Rather it is to insist that he is far more concerned about the consequences of that than he is about any personal relationship he may have with Trump now or in the future.

As has been so often in the case, Putin may overplay his hand and produce exactly the opposite of what he intends – Invading Ukraine led to the strengthening of NATO, not to its disintegration – but he can be countered, if and only if the goals he has are clearly understood and not obscured by mistaken idea that he cares about personal ties as much as do many in the West.


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Edited by: A. N.

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  • Turtler

    Pretty much this (though given the in my opinion dismal preference of the Obama Presidency in foreign affairs- to narrow it down to one- I’m not sure how he calculated that). Ultimately if Putin was interested in a beneficial relationship with the West he could have gotten it at almost any point starting two decades ago. He certainly has strung along enough naive, gullible, deluded, and /or irresponsible foreign leaders.

    The fact that he hasn’t tells me that good foreign relations with the Kremlin are not a matter of magically electing the “right” person, because the Kremlin is ruled by someone who is manifestly Wrong.

    This is why I think- more or less regardless of what you think of Trump- he and Putin will fall out sooner or later. Two thin skinned leaders with massive egos often collide even under the best of times (see the Churchill-De Gaulle-FDR headbanging fests in WWII). When one of them is an utter psychopath who wants to destroy the other it is just the tip of the iceberg.

    • Mephisto

      Putin may simply wish a Republican candidate, because Republican candidates are universally unpopular across the globe. Look at the first comment in the discussion here
      http://warontherocks.com/2016/03/open-letter-on-donald-trump-from-gop-national-security-leaders/
      Almost any (hardline) Republican candidate would weaken the standing of the US in the world (I quite liked Rubio), i.e. erode NATO, erode trans-atlantic ties. That is why Putin wishes a Republican, not a Democrat candidate. His ultimate goal is weakening the West, he is waging a war against the West. He cannot defeat it conventionally. He is therefore relying on subversion, trying to destroy, destabilize it from within. And the best tool that he has are populist politicians who advocate nationalism, xenophobia etc. He sponsors many populist parties across Europe. IMHO, the leaders of these parties should be jailed for treason. But the western politicians are weak, many do not realize the danger that Putin is, many were bought by Putin

      Putin has already (in part) reached his goal in the US. He helped to elect (by propaganda, russian hackers etc) a candidate who will (probably) weaken the country. And that will (probably) happed even if Trump and Putin fallout out. The problem will be the personality of Trump – he will fight diplomatic wars internationally and also domestically not only with the Democrats but also with a fraction of the Republican party. He based his campaign on hate and now he wonders why he is hated and why there are protests against him (not that I agree with them). He will not unite the nation. Strength is in unity. Divide and conquer is Putins strategy. So Putin already won because the US will be weakened by being strongly divided.

      • Dirk Smith

        The USA is only divided due to Obama. 8 years neo-socialist European liberalism has disenfranchised the ‘deplorables’ who threw his ilk out of office. The gay dwarf might like to think he’s important, but his mafia cartel is run on smoke and mirrors. Tougher sanctions and lethal aid to Ukraine would have saved many lives and ended this cancer of humanity.

        • Alex George

          “The USA is only divided due to Obama.”

          Right, so before Obama was elected there was no division in the USA?

          Funny, I must have just imagined all the vicious bile from both sides during the Reagan years, the Bush years and the Clinton years.

        • Alex George

          “Tougher sanctions and lethal aid to Ukraine would have saved many lives and ended this cancer of humanity.”

          Whilst I advocate both, they will not cause a quick end to this scourge. We must be ready for a long hard fight.

          But in the context of a discussion of Trump/Obama, aren’t you missing the fundamental point that we have no idea if Trump will do either? He may do exactly the same as Obama, for all you know.

          And it is possible that he may be worse. He may weaken sanctions or get them lifted, he may lower the level of non-lethal aid to Ukraine, and/or he may publicly proclaim how Putin should have a sphere of influence encompassing eastern Europe and the West should not risk war by opposing anything Putin does therein.

          If those things come to pass, Obama will look like the best friend Ukarine and the eastern Europeans ever had. Pray that does not happen .

      • Turtler

        “Putin may simply wish a Republican candidate, because Republican
        candidates are universally unpopular across the globe. Look at the first
        comment in the discussion here”

        This is a common meme, but it’s not true by any stretch of the imagination. Just look at the major irritation the British- and even the BBC had- for Obama’s ham handed abuse of them from things like the Churchill Bust (which was minor) to his attempts to browbeat them about an internal vote (which was not).

        I also took a look at the comment cited and concluded it is full of $hit. For one it is all based on a single set of data points, namely Pew Polls. So we’re already looking at incredibly shaky grounds with which to make a claim. But theoretically it can be done.

        But that isn’t the only problem. For two it isn’t measuring the two comparably. It is taking the second to last year of Obama with the last year of Bush. Which is at best comparing an orange to orange juice, and possibly less so. Especially since the general decay of presidential popularity and confidence in them is well noted.

        So either they should have gone with comparing the last year of both Presidents (which isn’t possible yet since we’re still in ’16, but will be soon) or the second to last.

        The fact that they failed to do this is a major screwup in methodology. But I can certainly see why, since if you do so you see a fall in several crucial nations even by their standards, as we can see with Israel.

        Thirdly: it’s very clear they (both Pew, and the guy citing pew in the Comment) picked and chose a very select portion of countries in which to give it. For the former, fact that several countries vanish or reappear from the rosters in given years (compare the 2008 list to 2007) is a big red flag. Either you try and do it for both years or you retrench and don’t do a given country at all.

        And as for the guy commenting, it’s pretty clear why. The fact that the Israelis loathe Obama and Clinton is an open secret and has been for a long time, and the figures for the Obama v. Bush years are pretty clear on that, even by Pew’s figures. The absence of the Czech Republic, the Baltic Three, Albania, and a number of others is also suspect to say the least.

        And that’s IF we trust the figures.

        Which I do not, because..

        Fourthly: Not only does it show a ludicrously unrealistic uptick in confidence more or less across the board (and the US figures are more than two times Obama’s popularity rating at the time), but it also happens in several countries where I have absolutely no reason to believe that is the case. Particularly Poland, Britain, India, and Japan, where he has consistently tanked the last two year on average.

        The fact that this doesn’t just subvert the usual trend but breaks it in two should tell us to be cautious in accepting these figures, but it doesn’t make them false. What does make them inaccurate it how they go against many, many, many other sources, including some by the BBC itself.

        So TL;DR: The figures he cites are only convincing to readers who don’t look at polls that critically. I’m not someone who hates polls (I cited several in this post and I thought the election ones in the US were probably reliable. Probably too much so now that we know the results), but this one has such glaring issues I can’t ignore it.

        And finally, there’s this crucial issue: Prestige is not Popularity. That is what trying to measure this with a poll fails. At the dawn of the 18th century you could count the number of nations in Europe that liked Louis XIV on one hand (Sweden, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Bavaria, Spain in a Frenemy way, and *maybe* Venice). This was also the exact time when the Western World was furiously modelling fashions and architecture that had been inaugurated by him and dealing with him. Louis did not need to be Popular with his neighbors in order to be Prestigious.

        And Obama is not a prestigious POTUS anymore. The fact that the CCP, Russia, the Philippines, the British Queen, the Iranian Guardian Council, Castro’s Cuba, the Israeli government, and the Columbian government have all snubbed him for one reason or another (Because they naturally hate the West, because they are allies that have been snubbed first, etc) shows that.

        He was prestigious when he first came into office, but that was a long time ago. And at the end of the day the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps did not dare kidnap US Sailors under the Bushes while they have now. To quote one of the great quotes about prestige, “Let them hate us so long as they fear us.”

        Anyway, moving on.

        In all due seriousness US Presidents tend to get slag internationally and domestically, and Republican presidents might get slightly worse treatment, but the number of times it amounts to seriously damaging a relationship with an ally is near nil.

        And while I do not want to be one to oversell Putin’s intelligence (he has enough people doing that on retainer by the Kremlin), I think he’s smart enough to know that.

        “Almost any (hardline) Republican candidate would weaken the standing
        of the US in the world”

        Which raises the question of how we define “Hardline.” Was Reagan a hardline Republican? Either Bush? Cruz? Trump?

        And again, it’s not something I am convinced about, to say the least. In particular because the history doesn’t seem to support it, and abusing one’s foreign allies or trying to go isolationist gets flak no matter who you do it with. There’s a reason why Obama readily became hated in the public of the NATO members of Eastern and Central Europe. The Poles, Georgians Czechs, and Baltics in particular aren’t anywhere close to forgiving him.

        And his dismal relations with Israel were horrible.

        “(I quite liked Rubio),”

        Eh, I didn’t, but he strikes me as someone who has his heart in the right place. Which is more than I’d dare say for Obama, the Clintons, or for that matter Trump.

        “i.e. erode NATO, erode trans-atlantic ties. That is why Putin wishes a Republican, not a Democrat candidate.”

        This requires utterly ignoring the past eight years, and particular how Obama managed to alienate some of the US’s oldest allies- like Britain, Israel, and later France-, some of its’ most zealous ones- like the Former Warsaw Pact NATO members- and sometimes both.

        In practice it seems like Putin’s role is generally to favor whichever party is in the opposition in a lame duck year. During 2008 and the end of the Bush years he did actions, used Wikileaks, and said words that supported Obama and the Dems. During ’16 she did the same for Trump.

        This seems to go back to what I’ve mentioned before, his ultimate hostility to whoever is in power in the US. But in addition it seems to me like he’s trying to create a certain degree of instability in the party politics.

        “His ultimate goal is weakening the West, he is waging a war against the West. He cannot defeat it conventionally. He is therefore relying on subversion, trying to destroy, destabilize it from within.”

        I absolutely agree.

        “And the best tool that he has are populist politicians who
        advocate nationalism, xenophobia etc.”

        Firstly: I doubt that. In practice the best tool he has for that seems to be his ability to throw his diplomatic weight around (both in the UN and elsewhere), and to a lesser degree his spy networks. Both of which have limits.

        Secondly: That does not describe most of the GOP and never has. It didn’t even describe most of the front runners and in the case of “xenophobia” it doesn’t fit Trump.

        “He sponsors many populist parties across Europe.”

        And many of them are on the Left as well as the right, as this website itself has described. Just look at the thugs of ANSWER in the UK, for instance.

        “IMHO, the leaders of these parties should be jailed for
        treason.”

        And according to the law you need a whole lot more than that, and for good reasons.

        “But the western politicians are weak, many do not realize the
        danger that Putin is, many were bought by Putin”

        On this much I agree, though mostly for the former. Or even if they do realize that danger, they’re too inept to stop it.

        “Putin has already (in part) reached his goal in the US.”

        We will see.

        “He helped to elect (by propaganda, russian hackers etc) a candidate who will (probably) weaken the country.”

        As you mentioned before, his goal is to weaken the US and the West, not an election result. So Putin isn’t going to be satisfied until that’s actually happened.

        And even then I question if that will satisfy someone as covetous as him.

        “And that will (probably) happed even if Trump and Putin fallout

        out.””

        Maybe, but we’ll see. And in the end part of the things in favor of Trump diplomatically is the rather dire straits US prestige is on internationally. It takes a lot to get the British truly angry at us, or for the CCP to dare snubbing a visiting dignitary of this magnitude.

        Trump may not be a diplomatic whiz- he may in fact be just as bad as this comment implies- but the truth is the status quo right now is not much better.

        “The problem will be the personality of Trump – he will fight
        diplomatic wars internationally and also domestically not only with the
        Democrats but also with a fraction of the Republican party.”

        Agreed, but this was hardly unique to him. Even a president as successful as FDR did (and half the reason he got away with it was because he managed to marginalize his domestic opposition to such a degree).

        As someone who had to watch the unfolding events for years in the US Obama did it as well.

        “He based his campaign on hate”

        If you truly believe this, you haven’t done a lot of research on Trump.

        Had he truly based his campaign on hate he would not have been elected, and CERTAINLY not elected largely by former Obama voters, including far more African-Americans and Hispanics than the ohsooooo~ hate filled Romney and McCain.

        The idea that the Trump train was powered by racism is a very poor fig leaf by biased hacks trying to explain why they did so poorly in this election, especially compared to the open courting of groups like Black Lives Matter by the White House. It doesn’t hold up when you actually look at the polls.

        “and now he wonders why he is hated”

        Again, this is monumentally poor research. Of all the many things I would ever accuse Trump of, having to wonder about why he is hated is not one of them. He generally KNOWS quite well why he is, because he’s waded into plenty of fights.

        But secondly, another reason why he has been hated beyond his “winning” Personality and behavior is because certain biased hacks in the Press and elsewhere- far from all of them, but a HUGE amount- have spent the last two decades or so painting every Republican Candidate with the same brush. As Racists, bigots, hateful, or sometimes even LITERALLY Hitler (ignoring the fact that the Fuhrer was a Nationalist Socialist).

        It didn’t matter that McCain was a centrist Republican at best who pandered to the Hispanic vote. It didn’t matter that Bush ran under the mantra of “Compassionate Conservatism” and did more to save lives in Subsaharan Africa than most people on the planet. It didn’t matter that Romney was a go-along-to-get-alone Mormon.

        They all became painted as angry, vile white men who hated “Brown” people merely because they recognized the threat of Islamism abroad and many of their supporters wanted the gaping wound that our Southern border is sewed shut.

        It didn’t make a difference with them, I will not blame Trump for it not making a difference with him. Irrational hatred will remain irrational.

        “and why there are protests against him (not that I agree with them).”

        See above, protests are a normal part of politics. For all the reasons I may despise a president “Having Protests against You” is not one of them.

        “He will not unite the nation.”

        We will see.

        But then, who can?

        Obama certainly didn’t, I can vouch for that personally and so can polls about race relations.

        Clinton certainly couldn’t, a person legally unable to hold the office she was running for and who insulted a little over a quarter of the country as “Deplorable” racists isn’t.

        And I don’t think for a second an aging Sandinista and Soviet fanboy can either.

        “Strength is in unity.”

        Unity is overrated, especially on the domestic side. As I mention before.

        Especially when a large swath of the population will hate you irrationally literally no matter who you are or what you did. As the morons who claimed Bush was Hitler can be qualified as.

        “Divide and conquer is Putins strategy.”

        In part, though he isn’t particularly good at it. Certainly not in the countries he has openly attacked.

        “So Putin already won because the US will be weakened by being strongly
        divided.”

        By this logic Putin already won the second he came to power because the US was badly divided. By the metric of voting even more badly divided than it is now.

        In the end, the US is badly divided already, and while over the last few years it has gotten worse I cannot attribute too much of that to Putin’s mechanizations or claim it is really a big victory for him.

        The benefit free countries have over totalitarian tin pots like the Troll of the Kremlin is that they do not have to submerge their concerns, desires, or divisions into an all encompassing Unity Fetish. They don’t have to have One Ballot with One Party and One Candidate on it. They don’t have to keep dissidents in jail or in exile just to remain functional. And they don’t have to claim unrealistic mandates to represent absolutely everybody or blame “saboteurs” or outright foreign enemies in order to explain when things go FUBAR.

        And in the long run they are much better For that strength than someone like Putin is. They don’t have to worry about getting overthrown if a poll shows that fewer than 90% of the public likes the guy in charge.

        So while I worry about unity and the divisions in the US- particularly to the degree they’ve gotten- I don’t worry about them that much. Nor do I attribute them to Trump.

        • Alex George

          I didn’t read the rest (sorry, big night last night) but couldn’t help noting this:

          “to his attempts to browbeat them [i.e. we Brits] about an internal vote (which was not [minor]).”

          Actually, it was. The small number of hard core Brexiters objected to Obama making a comment, not because they really cared about a foreigner commenting, but because they didn’t like what he said. The same people are very quick to praise a foreigner who says something they like. The hard core on the other side of course liked what Obama said, for the same reason, and the majority of people weren’t concerned about it either way.

          Foreigners comment about our politics all the time. As we often do about theirs.

          • Turtler

            “I didn’t read the rest (sorry, big night last night) but couldn’t help noting this:”

            Fair enough. I know I write a lot, probably too much. So get back to it whenever you want.

            “Actually, it was. The small number of hard core Brexiters objected to
            Obama making a comment, not because they really cared about a foreigner commenting, ”

            So apparently the BBC- which was faaamously xenophobic in favor of Brexit- constitutes a “hard core Brexiter”now?

            To quote Laura Kuensberg from the BBC:

            ““Thank you, Mr. President. You’ve made your views very plain on the fact
            that British voters should choose to stay in the E.U. But in the
            interest of good friends always being honest, are you also saying that
            our decades-old special relationship, that’s been through so much, would
            be fundamentally damaged and changed by our exit? If so, how? And are
            you also, do you have any sympathy with people who think this is none of
            your business?” ”

            And this was not an isolated incident, since Obama’s approval and support polls in the BBC dropped significantly (not cripplingly but significantly) after that.

            The idea that a position that irritated the BBC- which makes a pretense to be an imperial news agency for the British people and tends to lean leftwards and internationalist- shows this was not just a matter of “Die Hard Brexiters.” This annoyed plenty of people who were neutral or supported Stronger Together because of how ham handed and ungracious it seemed.

            Most of the play probably came from media and people in support of Brexit, unsurprisingly because they’re the ones who opposed both Obama’s stance and him. But this was not limited to them.

            “but because they didn’t like what he said. ”

            Which is not surprising, as I detailed above PLENTY of people didn’t like what he said, even those who were in favor of staying in the EU (which he was trying to bring about).

            “The same people are very quick to praise a foreigner who says something they like. The hard core on the other side of course liked what Obama said, for the same reason, and the majority of people weren’t concerned about it either way.

            “Foreigners comment about our politics all the time. As we often do about theirs.”

            I can believe it, since politics is by nature a passing involvement for most people, and I am well aware of the double standards of “Oh look at this foreigner that says something I like, not at the one that says something I don’t!”. There’s a reason it took a while for me to find a solid source for the reporter’s name: because it tends not to get mentioned in the same place.

            But as I mentioned before, the issue is that this kind of quote was not just something that the hard core Brexiteers noticed. It alienated most of the moderate Brexiters, the neutrals, and moderate Stays.

            And not surprising; can you imagine how many people- even in the Stay camp- who would have LIKED to hear a President of the US threaten to send Britain to the back of the queue after a century plus of alliance?

            This was a major case of foot in mouth and the people who reacted negatively to it were not just Nigel Farage’s close allies.

  • Dirk Smith

    Too much press and credence is given to this mafia pedophile in a suit. Under responsible leadership the last 20 years, ruSSia should be an economic dynamo, but it is once again a third-world banana republic that is underachieving once again. Hillary would have been a predictable target for the Tambov mafia and ample fuel for their propaganda against the West. Trump is unpredictable and untried. Despite the campaign-trail rhetoric, Trump will get educated on ruSSia and the origins of the current tyrant in power. (At this point, Trump couldn’t find Ukraine on a map of Europe.) Obama was the hurdle to tougher sanctions on the Tambov mafia; a GOP Congress without Obama in the way will play a different game with the cancer in the kremlin.

    • Mephisto

      Obama handled Putin quite well. He basically let him hang himself. Now, Putin is isolated internationally, his economy is in ruins, he is losing popularity at home. And Obama did that without any war, without sending American soldiers anywhere. IMHO, he was a good president, despite being blocked by the Republican congress
      http://pleasecutthecrap.com/obama-accomplishments/

      • Dirk Smith

        Putin recently signed deals with China and Turkey, his economy is not in ruins at this point, his popularity is meaningless now that he has installed his SS protection police to protect his fascist oligarchy. Obama’s foreign policy has left the US vulnerable to Islamic terror attacks, allowed the gay dwarf to wreck havoc worldwide, enabled Iran, we currently have soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, & Eastern Europe due to our favorite community organizer’s general ineptitude and unqualified experience to be in this position of POTUSA. He’s an abject failure on all counts.

        • Alex George

          “Putin recently signed deals with China and Turkey”

          I wouldn’t necessarily see either of those as positive for him.

          As for Obama, his key success against Russia was sanctions. And at this point we do NOT know if Trump will bring these down and let Puitn off the hook.

          The rest of your post is rather confusing – you blame Obama for “allowing” Puitin to wreak havoc “worldwide”, but you also complain about Us troops employment overseas. So how was Obama supposed to stop Putin?

          “we currently have soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, & Eastern Europe due to our favorite community organizer’s general ineptitude and unqualified experience”

          Right, so we are to take it that Obama did not follow the advice of his generals concerning military deployments? What particular advice from military experts are you saying he ignored?

      • Turtler

        “Obama handled Putin quite well.”

        No, he really didn’t. Which is why most of Eastern Europe hated him, as the Poles, the Georgians, and others can attest.

        ” He basically let him hang himself. ”

        Unfortunately, that also meant ceding the initiative to him. Which in practice has given us Putin-appeasing governments in Hungary and Slovakia, a war in Georgia, and Putin dumping the dirty laundry of the West for anybody to see.

        “Now,
        Putin is isolated internationally,”

        Uh?

        Excuse me?

        * PRC
        * Armenia
        * North Korea
        * Vietnam
        * Cambodia
        * (North) Sudan
        * Syria
        * Turkey (quite the flip)
        * Laos
        * Iran
        * Kazakhstan
        * Uzbekistan
        * Tajikstan
        * Slovakia
        * Hungary
        * Cuba
        * Venezuela
        * Bolivia
        * Indonesia
        * Philippines (half and half really)
        * Iraq
        * Yemen
        * Zimbabwe
        * Tanzania
        * Ethiopia
        * Eritrea
        * (A third of Africa, really)
        * and trade deals with France and Italy.

        Does this sound “diplomatically isolated” to you?

        The only thing to really balance this out is the creation of a free South Sudan and the fall of one of the Kremlin’s old allies, Gaddafi..

        But this is more than offset by Turkey, Slovakia, Hungary, Iraq, and (arguably) the Philippines flipping from being against him to walking hand in glove with him. All in all, a diplomatic SURGE for Putin.

        ” his economy is in ruins,”

        True.

        “he is losing
        popularity at home.”

        To the extent we can gauge his popularity at home it seems to be in a holding pattern, though that could be wrong.

        ” And Obama did that without any war, without sending
        American soldiers anywhere.”

        Uh, excuse me?

        What do you call the strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria? The attacks on Gaddafi? The battles in the Southern Philippines (which have gone on straight through the Bush years to now with little press)? The war in Yemen?

        Picnics?

        “IMHO, he was a good president, despite
        being blocked by the Republican congress”

        Well, you are welcome to your own opinions. But it’s worth looking at the counterbalance with it. And as Dirk mentioned, he is far from diplomatically isolated.

        • Alex George

          “No, he really didn’t.”

          As you keep saying, “we have to wait and see”. Nobody can say that Obama did badly until they see that in comparison with what Trump does. He may be far worse than Obama in this area. Or not.

          “Which is why most of Eastern Europe hated him, as the Poles, the Georgians, and others can attest.”

          No they don’t. Not even close. Most people in these countries know that Obama was little different to many others in the west. He was part of the malaise, not a leader of it. And he did do some positive things. So far, they don’t know if Trump will do any positive things.

          “Unfortunately, that also meant ceding the initiative to him. Which in practice has given us Putin-appeasing governments in Hungary and Slovakia, a war in Georgia, and Putin dumping the dirty laundry of the West for anybody to see.”

          Rubbish. Those things would have happened anyway. What could Obama have done differently that is guaranteed to have given a different result in any of those things?

          • Turtler

            “As you keep saying, “we have to wait and see”. ”

            Indeed, we do. For better or worse.

            And not because I have a deeply romantic view of Trump (unless viewing him as better than Clinton constitutes deeply romantic in your view) or think he will suddnely, supernaturally solve every problem. But because we will see.

            “Nobody can say that Obama did badly until they see that in comparison with what Trump achieves. ”

            How utterly stupid and dishonest.

            No, we do not have to wait until Trump does badly or worse in order to say that Obama did Badly while handling Putin. As you might have noticed, the key operative word here is the President”s Name. Obama or Trump. So the effects of other presidents on them are secondary at best.

            And unlike Trump, we’ve got a couple weeks short of two full terms by which to evaluate Obama’s handling of Putin and more, given his cozying up to the man during his time in Cognress, particularly around the time of the Georgian War.

            I may disagree with a lot of political hyperjudgement or gotchas (as yes, Conservatives often have done with him), but the idea that we have to wait at least four more years to evaluate this track record is not just wrong, it’s ignorant. We can look at it and make our judgements now.

            And the fact remains that he did handle Putin poorly. Extremely poorly. Even in comparison to other Presidents like Bush (a Republican) and Bill Clintion (a Democrat).

            He started out appeasing the Kremlin by blaming Bush of all people for the catastrophic relations breach (like some of Trump’s people are now blaming him, karmically but falsely enough). He rescinded a missile shield meant to lay the foundations of Central European defense against Third World nukes because Putin complained, he orgnaized a “Reset” of relations that amounted to defacto recognition of Russian annexations in Georgia and Moldova, and he even went out of his way to provide the Soviets with serial numbers for missiles on British subs.

            He softballed the Snowden and Wikileaks issues for most of his presidency until it became obvious they could also go after the Democratic political information he valued above what Manning and Snowden had stolen before, and when he finally got angry at Putin he did so ineptly.Red Line, anyone?

            And no, you can’t blame all of these things on the Republican controlled Congress (which might I add tended to be indisputably, strongly anti-Putin until Trump). For one it wasn’t around during the first two years of Obama’s Term. For two he bypassed it wherever possible even when it skirted on illegality (“I Have a pen and a phone.”). And for three even if we pretended that Congress had some role in his making an off the cuff Red Line threat and then capitulating on it, it would not exonerate him from His Own Damn Personal Conduct.

            The idea that we cannot render a judgement of him after all this time is just patently untrue.

            Could we imagine Trump will be worse? Sure. But even if we assume Trump goes all in and becomes an American Quisling to Putin, that will not make Obama’s Conduct NOT BAD.

            It will simply introduce something even worse on top of it.

            “He may be far worse than Obama in this area. Or not.”

            See above.

            He may, or he may not. I will not seriously discount either possibility and given my low opinion of Obama that says something about my lack of trust for him.

            But what Trump is is a matter for what Trump is. It has absolutely no effect on how bad Obama was for eight something years before.

            “No they don’t. Not even close. ”

            Check Poland for a bit.

            There’s a reason why one of the parties he favored went down in shattering defeat.

            “Most people in these countries know that
            Obama was little different to many others in the west.”

            Perhaps, but “many others in the West” weren’t the President. And they weren’t responsible for the decision to rescind the missile shield, givemissile serial keys to the Kremlin, or do a lot of other things.

            “He was part of the malaise, not a leader of it.”

            He’s in the office that at present manifests as the Leader of the Free World. If he wasn’t the leader of the malaise between his inauguration and now, what would constitute it?

            And if he was not willing to be held accountable on the level of a leader, he shouldn’t have sought the office in the first place. (Ditto Trump and I have my barbs primed for him if he does something I will not be silent on. Which he probably will).

            “And he did do some positive things. ”

            Agreed. Then again it’s hard to imagine a President who did absolutely no positive things. Even freaking Nixon had a fairly illustrious foreign policy career. Though even given that I will give him kudos on the sanctions of the Kremlin and those close to it.

            “So far, they don’t know if Trump will do any positive things.”

            See above.

            And in any case, the fact remains that Obama- in his position as leader- already has done negative things. Negative things that far exceeded the negative things Trump has done vis a vis the Kremlin. While Trump may have kissed Putin’s butt in inexcusable ways, Obama’s the one who actually helped set the stage for Russian aggression by softballing the threat for years.

            If Trump’s kissing Putin’s butt as a President-Elect and promising to patch up nations, he is merely following in the footsteps of Senator, President-Elect, and early President Obama (and briefly President Bush).

            “Unfortunately, that also meant ceding the initiative to him.”

            Which was not helped by going out of his way to make concessions to the Kremlin, such as the Missile Shield and the “Reset” recognition.

            “Right… So what could Obama have done differently that is guaranteed to have given a different result in any of those things?”

            Never let it be said that I am caustic for no reason.

            * Do not scuttle the Missile Complex in Poland because the Kremlin has a complex about a system that would protect against possible attack from Iran but not it. . If it doesn’t work, consult with the Poles and other stakeholders and scuttle it *with them.* Because at least doing it that way will mean that this was done because of an internal decision between Allies, NOT a unilateral one prompted by relations with a rival and threat. Which is a diplomatic snub, especially when it seems to be timed to reward one of the partitioning forces that invaded Poland on September 1st.

            * Do not “Reset” Russo-American Relations to try and dismiss the decades of bad laundry and Russian provocations against the West and other nations like so much bad laundry. Even if we say that the value of Georgia and Moldova vis a vis an agreement with Russia is debatable (which I find cold blooded and a bit perfidious but can accept is valid), they certainly are NOT worth less than a photo op with Lavrov.

            * Going off of the first point, Do Not make concessions about another nation (such as scrapping the missile shield facilities in Central Europe or giving over missile keys for British subs) in order to get brownie points with the Kremlin. It disappoints friendly nations if not allies, causes gaps to weaken in the Western alliance, and isn’t likely to *accomplish* anything because the Kremlin is not a brownie points and gratitude kind of organization.

            * Give more support to dissidents and protestors in repressive tyrannies in general. this would usually serve well across the board (for matters like the Green Revolution in iran) but it’s also worth comparing with Putin. Especially after years of roll back in that with things like the Russian chapter of Radio Free Europe being downsized into oblivion. Which in turn means that there is less way for people to get uncensored news.

            Would it have created a miraculous color revolution that would’ve toppled Putin? I don’t know. But it certainly could have counterbalanced much of what he did.

            * About threats and promises like the “Red Line” on Chemical WMD….don’t do them unless you are willing to carry them out.

            I’m not going to say Obama should have kissed butt with Assad or otherwise tried to make friends with a murderous tyrant. For starters it wouldn’t work, and for second it would still be a repugnant act much like Bush and Trump’s mouthjobs of Putin.

            But if you’re not *willing* to back up what your words are, don’t say them. Because as damaging as it may be for the Assads to go around gassing thousands of people it is not as damaging if the US threatens to do something about it but then folds.

            * Do not trust the Russians- or at least the Russians alone- with WMD cleanup like how they supposedly would midwife Assad getting rid of his gas. At minimum going to the UN to ask for assistance would have helped.

            * Censure or Discipline any of your staff that- like Eric Holder- trivialize Snowden’s defection.

            * IF you learn about your onetime Secretary of State trying to conduct her business by using an illegal server and exposing classified documents through its’ insecurity, inform law enforcement and bring her to account. Do not ignore it. Do not correspond with it using an alias that shocked even one of Clinton’s Aides.

            Now it’s worth noting what I didn’t ask him to do.

            * Become a Republican.

            * Become a Black Bush or Trump.

            * Abandon election promises (save maybe that of “fixing da relationship with Russia”).

            * Abandon most of his foreign policy, including things I find disasterous like the Iran Deal.

            * Turn away from the Arab Spring.

            * Solve every problem in the world.

            Among others.

            Because I don’t think it is fair to set a test that Obama can’t pass, or make a test that he can only pass if he has a completely different agenda. It just shows how this should’ve been dealt with far, far better.

        • Alex George

          “Does this sound “diplomatically isolated” to you?”

          If you are going to quote someone, you might at least do them the courtesy of not inserting your own qualifier into their phrase.

          “The only thing to really balance this out is the creation of a free South Sudan and the fall of one of the Kremlin’s old allies, Gaddafi.”

          What an absurd statement. You have left the real point completely out of consideration, the thing that really hurts Putin, and that is sanctions. And we still don’t know if Trump will try to get them lifted.

          • Turtler

            “If you are going to quote someone, you might at least do them the
            courtesy of not inserting your own qualifier into their phrase.”

            If I quote someone, I do them the courtesy of using their words exactly as they typed them. By Copy/Pasting.

            When I paraphrase I put no such restriction on myself, and I’ll be the first one to state it was not a direct quote of someone’s.

            But I feel quite secure in adding the “Diplomatic” part to it, because it is by far the narrower interpretation of “isolated internationally.” Because if we were talking about isolated economically or socially.. it just isn’t true. Russian companies can still do business both in my old home in California and my new one in Ohio (even though it is hundreds of miles from the nearest coast).

            “What an absurd statement. You have left the real point completely out of consideration, the thing that really hurts Putin, and that is sanctions. ”

            If you want to complain to me about leaving out sanctions, you should have brought it up wih him because He didn’t mention it.

            And frankly, Sanctions do not diplomatically isolate. In fact sanctions are at their most effective when they are imposed AFTER the fact on an already diplomatically isolated country. Because that country or its’ warlords will not have friends, trade agreements, or the like that they can turn to or go around the long way.

            Obama’s sanctions are one thing I will say he was fairly effective at when it came to confronting Putin, and nobody will be able to take that away from him. But the idea that it magically cut alliances- sometimes decades old- with the Third World and Rogue Nations of the world (ie: actually left them “Isolated Internationally”) is Poppycock.

            Sanctions hurt his ability and those of his minions to travel abroad and conduct trade deals, but they do not radically change the amount of nations he has close ties with That Much. France, Italy, and Greece are probably the main hinge countries that are grudgingly going along.

            “And we still don’t know if Trump will try to get them lifted.”

            On this much I agree.

            If Trump does- or even considers it- he deserves to get flogged. Mercilessly.

        • Alex George

          “Putin dumping the dirty laundry of the West for anybody to see.”

          Interesting – so you say it was Obama’s fault that Russian cyber hackers got a whole lot of emails? On what basis do you suggest that exactly the same thing wouldn’t have happened if Trump has been POTUS?

          Its also interesting that we haven’t seen the west’s dirty laundry on display during the campaign – only Hillary’s.

          That could be because the Russians did not bother to hack Trump’s emails. Which would be rather unlike them. Or it could be because they have a lot of Trump’s emails and will release them if he ever crosses them. All sorts of things are possible.

          • Turtler

            “Interesting – so you say it was Obama’s fault that Russian cyber
            hackers got a whole lot of emails?”

            In part. Even stupidity and dereliction of duty does not excuse the actual thieves.

            But the extremely lax, johnny come lately way Obama approached cybersecurity (such as his administration’s softpeddling of Wikileaks and the Snowden defection- see Holder’s claim) as well as his allowing his onetime Secretary of State and presumptive political heir to use an illegal, laughably insecure private server helped feed into it.

            That doesn’t make him the primary person responsible any more than the shoddy strategy the Dutch army had in 1940 justified them getting invaded. But it does make them (ir)responsible.

            “On what basis do you suggest that exactly the same thing wouldn’t have happened if Trump has been POTUS?”

            Frankly yes. In large part because Trump has not yet been caught having an illegal, laughably insecure private server in which any two bit thug with some black hats in his employ could get it.

            And you know it.

            For better or worse the hackers couldn’t even get at is vaunted financial records (in spite of how we know they tried).

            “Its also interesting that we haven’t seen the west’s dirty laundry on display during the campaign – only Hillary’s.”

            Seriously?

            You haven’t been paying attention to Wikileak and Snowden for a long time, have you?

            A large part of it was because- as both Greenfield and a friend of mine who actually has experience in intelligence pointed out- the West’s actual dirty laundry and secrets have been compromised by Wikileaks and by extension the Russians for years (though not to this degree). Obama and Clinton were certainly not troubled by it when it was targeting the Bush Administration and its’ allies, and even softballed it when Snowden turncoated on them.

            https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/264531/truth-nuclear-weapon-new-cold-war-daniel-greenfield

            It’s just that that got less media attention and Obama Admin condemnation than that.

            “That could be because the Russians did not bother to hack Trump’s emails. Which would be rather unlike them. ”

            Unlike Hillary, it’s unlike that the sheer fact there WERE Emails in a given place would constitute a disqualifying breach of the law. Up until his election, Trump didn’t have SCIF clearance, and I’d assme for

            It’s also like that they have chosen to keep a lid on what they might have from Trump’s emails for blackmail or leverage.

            “lot of Trump’s emails and will release them if he ever crosses them. ”

            Perhaps. The fact that a lot of them haven’t been hacked and released already in spite of severe efforts by a lot of hacking groups says something.

            However, as I detailed above, it would be highly unlikely that even if Trump’s emails were released, they would be anywhere near as damaging to him as they were to Clinton and Obama. At least yet.

            In large part because Trump didn’t have access to the classified documentation he’d need to handle it so ineptly. And the chances of his emails revealing widespread administration knowledge of an illegal security breach are just about nil.

            “All sorts of things are possible.”

            Widespread, systematic violations of SCIF protocols however, are slimly so. At best.

            At least right now; he hasn’t even been sworn in yet and perhaps he will have enough time to yet reach the lows Clinton achieved after only one term as Sec of State. But he isn’t there yet.

  • zorbatheturk

    A strong America means a weak RuSSia. Trump plans to increase military spend. This means NATO becoming more relevant, not less. The Putinator needs to be put out of action.

  • Alex George

    “As has been so often in the case, Putin may overplay his hand and produce exactly the opposite of what he intends ”

    He does have a knack for that.