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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

 

Putin's putty

by Tom Sullivan

One advantage Donald Trump has over his domestic opponents is his tolerance for chaos. As Gov. Jeb Bush predicted, he is a chaos president.

Ahead of the sitting president's "reveal" last night of Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals as his nominee to the Supreme Court, hundreds were poised outside the Supreme Court and Trump Tower in New York last night to protest any pick coming from the Trump White House. Ruling from a court driven rightward by Kavanaugh's addition could upend decades of precedent.

But even as the U.S. Senate settles in for a confirmation fight, Donald Trump, president for now, jets off for his July 16 summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. After reading David J. Kramer's predictions of Putin's approach to the meeting, it is not clear which event will be more unsettling, the one we will watch under the glare of press coverage or the one held behind closed doors.

Kramer is former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor under president George W. Bush. He teaches now in the Vaclav Havel Program for Human Rights and Diplomacy at Florida International University’s Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs. He lays out in the Washington Post Putin's likely approach to reducing the his counterpart (asset?) to putty in his hands.

Kramer lays out three strategies the former KGB officer may use in further undermining U.S. influence and decades of western security agreements secured by NATO.

First comes the flattery:

Putin is sure to remark how Trump overcame the odds in a presidential election few thought he could win — most likely including, by the way, Putin himself.

Putin will emphasize Trump’s ability to be his own man, unbeholden to the “swamp creatures” of Washington. He will admire Trump’s candor and readiness to defy norms, especially by challenging allies who are “taking advantage” of the United States.
Next comes Putin ratifying Trump's antipathy to his predecessor, Barack Obama:
Second, Putin will blame all of the problems in U.S.-Russia relations on Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. Not lost on those in Moscow is Trump’s readiness to seek to do the opposite of what Obama did. As Trump himself has said, Obama let Putin take Crimea. Putin will say that it was Obama who imposed sanctions on Russia and accused Moscow of interfering in the election in an attempt to discredit Trump’s legitimacy.
Obama's interference in Ukraine left Putin no choice but to defend Russian-speakers in Crimea. Obama's failures in Syria, Putin will say, forced Russia to back Bashar al-Assad in pushing back against Islamic extremists. If the U.S. wants out, let us handle it. Pay no attention to our cooperation with the Iranians. Finally, there's NATO, the E.U., the G7, and the World Trade Organization:
Putin will claim that he and Trump have had enough of these institutions, which seek to block Russia and exploit U.S. generosity. Let’s start over, Putin will urge, to build the greatest partnership between Russia and the United States ever.

Only Trump, Putin will claim, is bold enough to toss aside these obsolete institutions and build a new foundation in their place. Such a foundation should be laid by the two great powers, Russia and the United States, led by their two great current leaders. Their meeting in Helsinki opens the way for the two of them to make history. Smaller countries, the Russian leader will posit, only get in the way of a brighter future together. Indeed, he and Trump could make Russian-American relations great again!
That's only the most unsettling thing I've read this hour. Because it is more likely to work than not.

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For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.