and advance his ownâ€"heâ€™d look a lot like Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, Donald Trump told the
New York Times that he would not necessarily come to the aid of NATO states threatened by Russia and would make his decision to defend them from an attack after reviewing whether they â€œhave fulfilled their obligations to us.â€ It was the latest statement from Trump that was likely greeted with delight in the Kremlin. Earlier this month, Franklin Foer wrote on the frightening ways in which Trump seems to be playing right into Vladimir Putin's plans for destabilizing the West.
Vladimir Putin has a plan for destroying the Westâ€"and that plan looks a lot like Donald Trump. Over the past decade, Russia has boosted right-wing populists
across Europe. It loaned money to Marine Le Pen in France,well-documented
transfusions of cash to keep her presidential campaign alive. Such largesse also wended its way to the former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, who profitedâ€œpersonally and handsomely
â€ from Russian energy deals, as an American ambassador to Rome once put it. (Berlusconi also shared a240-year-old bottle
of Crimean wine with Putin and apparently makes ample use ofa bed
gifted to him by the Russian president.)
Thereâ€™s a clear pattern
: Putin runs stealth efforts on behalf of politicians who rail against the European Union and want to push away from NATO. Heâ€™s been a patron of Golden Dawn
in Greece, Ataka in Bulgaria, and Jobbik in Hungary. Joe Biden
warned about this effort last year in a speech at the Brookings Institution: â€œPresident Putin sees such political forces as useful tools to be manipulated, to create cracks in the European body politic which he can then exploit.â€ Ruptures that will likely multiply after Brexitâ€"a campaign Russiaâ€™s many propaganda
organs bombastically promoted
The destruction of Europe is a grandiose objective; so is the weakening of the United States. Until recently, Putin has only focused glancing attention on American elections. Then along came the presumptive Republican nominee.
Donald Trump is like the Kremlinâ€™s favored candidates, only more so. He celebrated the United Kingdomâ€™s exit from the EU. He denounces NATO with feeling. He is also a great admirer of Vladimir Putin. Trumpâ€™s devotion to the Russian president has been portrayed as buffoonish enthusiasm for a fellow macho strongman. But Trumpâ€™s statements of praise amount to something closer to slavish devotion. In 2007, he praised Putin
for â€œrebuilding Russia.â€ A year later he added
, â€œHe does his work well. Much better than our Bush.â€ When Putin ripped American exceptionalism i
n a New York Times
op-ed in 2013, Trump called it â€œa masterpiece.
â€ Despite ample evidence, Trump denies
that Putin has assassinated his opponents: â€œIn all fairness to Putin, youâ€™re saying he killed people. I havenâ€™t seen that.â€ In the event that such killings have transpired, they can be forgiven
: â€œAt least heâ€™s a leader.â€ And not just any old head of state
: â€œI will tell you that, in terms of leadership, heâ€™s getting an A.â€
Donald Trump is like the Kremlinâ€™s favored candidates, only more so.
Thatâ€™s a highly abridged sampling of Trumpâ€™s odes to Putin. Why wouldnâ€™t
the Russians offer him the same furtive assistance theyâ€™ve lavished on Le Pen, Berlusconi, and the rest? Indeed, according to Politico
â€™s Michael Crowley, Russian propaganda
has gone full throttle for Trump, using its Russia Today
apparatus to thrash Hillary Clinton and hail the courage of Trumpâ€™s foreign policy. (Sample headline
: â€œTrump Sparks NATO Debate: â€˜Obsoleteâ€™ or â€˜Tripwire That Could Lead to World War III.â€™ â€) Russian intelligence services hacked
the Democratic National Committeeâ€™s servers, purloining its opposition research files on Trump and just about everything else it could find. They also wormed their way into the computers of the Clinton Foundation, a breach reported by Bloomberg
. And though it may be a mere coincidence, Trumpâ€™s inner circle is populated with advisers and operatives who have long careers advancing the interests of the Kremlin.
We shouldnâ€™t overstate Putinâ€™s efforts, which will hardly determine the outcome of the election. Still, we should think of the Trump campaign as the moral equivalent of Henry Wallaceâ€™s communist-infiltrated
campaign for president in 1948, albeit less sincere and idealistic than that. A foreign power that wishes ill upon the United States has attached itself to a major presidential campaign.
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