Donald Trump told Christian Broadcasting Network Founder, Pat Robertson, in an interview, that “He thinks Putin would actually have been happier with Hillary Clinton in the White House because he's building the U.S. military and working to export U.S. energy, which Russia opposes.” This remark is largely being dismissed by the media because the possibility of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is only growing in light of secret meetings between members of his family and representatives of Moscow. Furthermore, the hate Putin had towards Hillary Clinton was almost legendary. His disdain for the former Secretary of State goes back to (at least) 2011.
According to Politico, “When mass protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin erupted in Moscow in December 2011, Putin made clear who he thought was really behind them — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. ”The article goes on to say “with the protesters accusing Putin of having rigged recent elections, the Russian leader pointed an angry finger at Clinton, who had issued a statement sharply critical of the voting results. ‘She said they were dishonest and unfair,’ Putin fumed in public remarks, saying that Clinton gave ‘a signal’ to demonstrators working ‘with the support of the U.S. State Department’ to undermine his power. ‘We need to safeguard ourselves from this interference in our internal affairs,’ Putin declared.”
Still, I think Trump’s remarks to Pat Robertson will probably prove correct, if only in retrospect. I think Putin would prefer to work with the devil he knew, than the devil nobody knows. World leaders are, in a way, like people in the insurance business — they manage risk. With Hillary Clinton, Putin had decades of predictable behavior to work with. He could have done analysis over her years as First Lady, her time in the US Senate, as well as his own experiences. Donald Trump is impossible to analyze. I say he is the devil nobody knows because he changes on a daily basis. He is the most unpredictable President of the United States I have ever seen. Furthermore, as a fairly serious student of history, he may be the most volatile President since the beginning of the nation. He is a nightmare to friends and foes alike.
Many in the media are looking at Theresa May’s recent election results as a product of poor timing by the UK’s Prime Minister. It is more logical to conclude that May was a victim of dealing with a US President that was supposed to be her partner in promoting similar objectives, but instead has been a gadfly that makes any of his international friends seem like foes, or at least confused. He has openly criticized all of his allies (be it for NATO payments or immigration policies) on the world stage. This has put these leaders in a very awkward situation to say the least.
CNN has rightly pointed out in a headline after the UK elections that the “Trump Effect Added to Theresa May’s Disastrous Campaign.” Being closely associated with Trump made May very vulnerable going into those elections. Trump does not appear to stand for anything but Trump, being aligned with the US President is a vulnerable position to be in for most world leaders.
Meanwhile, Putin has an ally in Trump that has to be seen as dangerous to Russia’s long term objectives. Sure, Putin likely enjoyed undermining Clinton in the election, but now Russia has to deal with the likes of Trump. The situation with North Korea is an excellent example. President Ronald Reagan profoundly contributed to the demise of the former Soviet Union, thanks simply to the mere possibility of a Strategic Defense Initiative (an anti-missile defense program). I believe other presidents would probably focus on diplomatic solutions with North Korea first and military threats second. Not Donald Trump. The President has made demonstrations of the power of our anti-ballistic missile systems a primary objective. Meanwhile, some in the conservative media are calling such programs among the highest spending priorities of the US government. The potential growing sophistication of these systems, even in just perception, would be a nightmare to the Kremlin. Furthermore, as the drum beats louder about impeachment, collusion, and more Russia related problems for Trump, the desire to prove his independence from Moscow will become stronger. He will likely do that using the tools of angry rhetoric and military muscle. Did Putin want a Trump presidency? I think that is obvious. Will he likely have buyer’s remorse for his choice? I would make that bet.