Albeit counter-intuitive, Donald Trump might be the most effective American president to ever deal with Vladimir Putin.
And before you close this article; I’m not about to characterize Donald Trump as some sort of political 4D chess mastermind. Yet ironically, the Kremlin’s highest profile apologist has positioned himself to do the most damage to Putin’s authoritarian regime. Even if unwilling.
This is because the current Russian government has poured million of dollars into its domestic propaganda efforts with one purpose: To create a narrative that Russia and its natural resources are under constant threat from America, with Putin presented as the antidote.
This interpretation of American foreign policy is key to the regime’s survival. State television in Russia will have you believe that in order to keep from being “eaten alive” by the evil American Empire, citizens have to not only fully support their tough leader, but also allow him to yield unlimited power for the greater good of the nation.
It wasn’t long ago, that Putin’s poll numbers were slumping. Only 61 percent of Russians approved of his job performance — high by Western standards, but the lowest for Putin since shortly after he took office. After Putin illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, stoking tensions with the West to their worst since the Cold War, Russians took their minds off their struggling economy and positioned themselves resolutely behind their leader. President Vladimir Putin today has an 83 percent approval rating at home. In other words anti-American sentiments in Russia are driven largely by domestic political climate and has little relationship to US foreign policy itself.
And while to us this might seem like a silly tactic, it is obviously effective. So effective that the Kremlin has been using it since Soviet times.
Yet the election of Donald Trump has undermined all that manufactured animosity. After all, how threatened should the average Russian feel when we just voted for a president who campaigned on better relations with their country? One of the main talking points peddled by Russian state media is effectively drying up.
Which begs the question: Is Putin having buyer’s remorse? Sure there is some undermining of their narrative , but there are also some clear wins for the Russian leader. For example, Putin is obsessed with portraying himself as a major world player, and hacking the election process of the most powerful nation on Earth will do that. We also know that merely creating chaos in Western countries is one the the Kremlin’s main objectives. But was it worth all the trouble? I would think Nyet.
Trump is seemingly too incompetent to serve any useful purpose to the Kremlin. The blatant affinity towards the Russian dictator has been so transparent that lawmakers on the US Senate recently voted to not only impose new sanctions on Russia, but also strip the president of his ability to remove them without getting Congress involved first.
The Senate passed the “Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act”, which also includes the Russia sanctions, in a 98-2 vote on June 15. Given the current political climate, that’s extremely rare bi-partisan support.
Russia’s embattled oil-based economy will continue to take a sharp dive on the years to come. Any sanction relief from the current administration seems very unlikely given that any policy having to do with Russia will now face huge scrutiny- both from Congress and the American people.
But just as worrying to the Kremlin is the fact that Trump won’t be president forever. Someone else will come along, and Russia will ultimately face the music, most likely through a ratcheting of economic sanctions.
But even before that happens, the ground is getting shaky for Putin, whose political stability relies on an exaggerated account of American hostility towards Russia.