Last Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave praise to Donald Trump. Calling him “A bright and talented person without any doubt”, he effectively supported Trump’s bid for the Oval Office. Some US news sources and pundits are not surprised by this, saying that they both have quite similar personalities, & CNN jokingly describing their relationship as a ‘bromance‘. Many Republican candidates have mocked Trump & Putin for their praise of one another, calling them both bullies, and Putin a ruthless dictator, not thinking much of this, even glad it happened in the hope that it would hurt Trump in his campaign. However, there could be more than meets the eye in regards to this ‘bromance’.
Firstly, it’s strange how for all of Putin’s praise of Trump, neither of Trump’s conglomerates, The Trump Organization or Trump Entertainment have anything to do in Russia: Trump owns no property there, he has had no business dealings with Russian corporations, no exchanges or trades of any sort. What is also strange is that Putin generally does not trust the economic elite, both within and without his country. He has passed strict protectionist laws making it difficult for foreign companies to do business in Russia, and is known for controlling his own corporate elites, seeing them as much a threat to his power as the political factions that oppose him. Rather than a genuine compliment and show of support, this is a calculated move on the part of Putin.
For the past ten years, western policy makers and analysts have tried to make sense of Putin’s foreign policy decisions: his skirmish with Georgia in 2008, his intervention in the Ukraine crisis and support of eastern partisans, the annexation of Crimea, his support of Assad and military campaign in Syria, and of course the downing of the Russian jet by Turkish forces. He has been making a lot of plays while keeping his intentions quite ambiguous, with many speculating what his end game is. However, it is possible that with his support for Trump, he has inadvertently revealed his true intentions.
Quite simply, Putin wishes to destabilize, or at the very least pacify the West. He views NATO & and the United States as threats to Russian interests and power, and has taken advantage of the current political atmosphere in the United States and Europe to do so: poking around to see what he can get away with, calling out Obama, essentially daring him to do something about Putin’s aggressive policies. He realized that Obama was a weak president: watched him bluff in Syria and blunder every political crisis that has occurred. It is because he knows that the current administration is weak he annexed Crimea, supported Assad and has intervened in Syria in such a massive scale. Which is why he baited Turkey.
Though there is no empirical evidence of this, granting the assumption that Putin’s end goal is the pacification of NATO and the West, then it is logical that he must pacify Turkey. Whatever happened that day, Erdogan took the bait and shot the jet down. This put Turkey in a hard spot and already people are calling for the removal of Turkey from NATO. While it seems that Putin’s attempt at making Turkey a black sheep in NATO did not fully succeed, It’s quite possibles he will try to bait Turkey again, or at the least ignore Turkey while continues his military campaign in the Middle East.
So what does this have to do with Trump? Considering that Trump & Russia have had no real relations whatsoever prior to his bid for the presidency, Putin’s support of Trump could be his way of weakening the United States further. Trump has already mentioned that he would let Russia handle the Middle East “Russia wants to get rid of ISIS. We want to get rid of ISIS. Maybe let Russia do it. Let them get rid of ISIS. What the hell do we care?”, he said in a 60 minutes interview. This is where Putin’s support becomes less than genuine: It’s possible that Putin views a Trump presidency as one that would ignore Russian military action in the Ukraine & Middle East, it’s also possible that Putin sees Trump as an incompetent fool that will hurt the United States, doing all of Putin’s dirty work for him. Either way, Putin has trumped the West once again.