Putin and Trump: Partners in Partisan Politics


            The United States and the Soviet Union both thought of themselves as progressive nations with an overriding philosophy that rendered individual classes and clans meaningless. The United States had a democratic, melting pot ethos, while the Russians professed egalitarian communism.


            Both Trump and Putin have jettisoned their nation's putative philosophies and normalized an America/Russia first stance. Putin and Trump are both anti-democratic, racist nationalists, putting their nations first.


The Only Issue is the Survival of the White Race


            Trump and Putin have something else in common. They are both misogynist white men.


            When James Callaghan became Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1976, he was told by his combined Chiefs of Staff that the country's defense was so tightly bound to NATO that it had only three days' ammunition on hand in case of war.


            Worried, Callaghan went to Moscow. During his meeting with Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the latter allegedly reassured Callaghan of his  peaceful intentions by saying, "The only issue is the survival of the white race."


Putin Invaded Ukraine to Punish It for Not Helping Trump Win Re-election


            Trump's first impeachment for soliciting Ukraine's help finding dirt on Biden from the Ukraine was a combination of hypocrisy and naivete. Heads of state help their allied counterparts to win elections all the time. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher did whatever was necessary to help with each other's domestic political problems. They were like two kids in high school swooning over each other. During the Iran-Contra scandal, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher came to the United States and appeared on Face the Nation and extolled the great strengths of the United States. Her bravura performance helped dig Reagan out of his hole.


            Reagan, Thatcher, and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl each communicated regularly and took into account the domestic political difficulties faced by their counterparts when making statements or taking action. In the 1960s and 1970s, Israel's Prime Ministers routinely came to the United States during election season to make sure candidates of both parties were biased toward Israel.


            Trump's error was to solicit help from Ukraine himself. Usually, someone like the Ambassador, or a trusted member of President Zelenskiy's entourage,  would be called to the White House or met in a restaurant where a trusted member of the President's staff would explain the political landscape and suggest that an investigation of Hunter Biden's affairs in Ukraine would be viewed with favor by the president. This is the normal way of discussing difficult diplomatic issues, with several degrees of separation between the principals, so they can always say they didn't know and fire the messenger. But Trump's undisciplined tongue put the request on the record. After all, during a press conference   in Florida before the 2016 election, Trump said: "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing." Trump wasn't making any attempt to hide his solicitation of foreign help for his campaign. People voted for him with open eyes.


            It's pretty easy to guess what Putin and Trump agreed in private. Trump took a free hand in abandoning the Iran nuclear deal, leaving the Paris Climate Accord and giving Israel everything it wanted in the Middle East. Trump had already questioned the continued usefulness of NATO, so Putin naturally assumed that, in his second term, Trump would put America First and do nothing about Russia's re-annexation of parts of Ukraine. Putin certainly wouldn't have had to worry about Ukraine joining NATO if Trump was busy undermining the alliance from within.


            But when the American voters elected Biden, both Trump and Putin went off the rails. That was why Trump was so desperate to hold on to power, even hoping to overturn his election loss by threats and violence. Trump had made a deal with Putin that he now couldn't keep. If Putin acquiesced in Isreal's annexation of the Golan Heights (which belongs to Syria, one of Russia's client states), the West Bank, and Jerusalem, Trump promised to let Russia re-annex Ukraine. Such a deal is normal political log rolling in domestic partisan politics ‒ I'll give you what you want if you give me what I want ‒ but unworkable in international relations where nations have mutual and overlapping agreements.


Putin Is Hoist on His Own Petard


            Putin's strategy and tactics in Ukraine make no sense in light of his stated purposes. Special Operation is not a term from the lexicon of the Russian military; it is a term of art from the KGB, the Soviet Secret Services, from which Putin emerged.


            Putin said that Ukraine is not a real country, yet the Soviets insisted that Ukraine and Belarus have their own seats at the United Nations. On July 17, 2014, four months after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula, the militia of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic, the part of Ukraine recognized by Russia as an independent nation, shot down Malaysia Airlines flight 17 with a Russian-supplied BUK anti-aircraft system., killing 298 people.


            And here's where Putin made his crucial mistake that has rallied the developed world against his invasion. Russia mounted a massive disinformation campaign in an attempt to shift the blame for the downed airliner onto Ukraine. When the Soviets shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 in 1983, it denied any knowledge of the crash and refused for a decade to give the recovered black boxes to investigators. In contrast, during the Iran-Iraq War, when the United States USS Vincennes mistakenly shot down Iran Air Flight 655, President Reagan immediately sent a note of regret to the Iranian government. Eventually, the United States paid $61.8 million to the families of the 290 people who were killed. Although technically not accepting blame for the incident, claiming self-defense, Reagan said his note of regret was an apology.


            In 2021, Ryanair Flight 4978 from Athens, Greece to Vilnius, Lithuania was forced to land in Minsk, due to a false bomb threat relayed by Belarus Air Traffic Control. The diversion was so Belarus could arrest Roman Protasevich, a blogger and writer who opposed Belarus President Alexander Lukasevich's rigged re-election. When Vladimir Putin gave his complete support to this act of international air piracy, every sentient air passenger would and should have felt personally threatened.


            Judges in criminal trials put great store in the convicted admitting their guilt. Russia's refusal to accept blame for downing Malaysia Flight 17 or condemning Belarus's endangering international air travel for domestic political purposes is a direct threat to the public and international order. Hence, sympathy for his paranoid fears from NATO seem minor compared to the actual threat Russia and Belarus pose to orderly international commerce.


            Putin was stunned by the uniformly hostile reaction to his invasion of Ukraine by the democracies in Europe. Having endured two horrific wars on their soil in the twentieth century, they united to prevent another. Furthermore, Putin, like many Americans, never imagined that beneath that stuttering sleepy exterior, Joe Biden had a will of steel. He brilliantly exposed Russia's plans to invade Ukraine, thereby depriving Putin of the element of surprise. He also exposed Putin for the liar and thug that the professional diplomats and cognoscenti have known for so long.


            Beginning with the Barbary Pirate Wars of 1801-1805 and 1815-1816, the one inviolate stance of American foreign policy is freedom of the seas and navigation. Air travel, governed by the same maritime legal concepts, is the successor area of concern. Putin alleges that NATO expansion into Ukraine is a threat, but it garners little sympathy among air travelers. Russia's invasion of parts of Armenia, Georgia, and Ukraine along with its blatant disregard for international air norms have left it isolated and condemned.


Return to Institute of Election Analysis Home Page

Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf