Donald Trump is important to the Kremlin as a symbol of potential Russia-U.S. cooperation. The secret hope is that Trump’s angry and disillusioned supporters will foment a color revolution in the United States.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the third presidential debate with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Las Vegas, Oct. 19, 2016. Photo: AP
For a different take read: "How Clinton is using Vladimir Putin to define Trump"
During the final U.S. presidential debate that took place in Las Vegas on Oct. 19 the two candidates for U.S. presidency, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, could not help discussing Russia and the alleged involvement of Russian hackers in the American election campaign. Once again, they expressed their opinions about Russian president Vladimir Putin.
While Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sought to score points by accusing her opponent of being sympathetic to Russia, her Republican counterpart kept approving the Kremlin’s foreign policy and even contrasted it to the foreign policy of the current Democratic administration, which he sees as weak and helpless.
Obviously, it is not a matter of Trump’s personal sympathies toward Putin. There is a certain political calculation behind the moves of the Republican candidate. While endorsing the policy of the Russian leader, Trump is just voicing a viewpoint that is widespread among his supporters.
After all, it is well known that those who share conservative values and embrace a national-patriotic ideology basically look the same in different countries. The only thing that makes them different is their national identity.
And Russian and American patriots and conservatives are not the exception. However, historically, political forces representing them both in Russia and the U.S. viewed each other as the most bitter of enemies. For example, Russia’s conservative political elites have always seen such figures as Arizona Senator John McCain [the Republican presidential nominee in 2008] and Dick Cheney [the U.S. vice president under George W. Bush] as the symbols of hostility and Russophobia.
With the emergence of Trump in the Republican camp, the level of hostility started disappearing. The Republican candidate found a successful ideological message and translated the hidden aspirations of million Americans – who are also the supporters of a strong America-first policy – into simple political slogans.
During the debates, Trump said Putin “outsmarted” Obama and Clinton on foreign policy “every single step of the way.” At the same time, Trump expressed his readiness to find common ground with the Russian president and tried to find a link with Putin, whom he sees not as the enemy of America, but rather, as the symbol of decisiveness and success.
There is no reason to blame those Americans who were fooled by these tricks of Trump. Throughout history, people have been inclined to create idols, indulge in illusions and admire those who displayed power and influence. American history itself is filled with examples of these demagogues.
The admiration of Trump’s supporters with regard to Putin is comparable with the admiration of Europeans towards Napoleon in the early 19th century. However, this admiration faded away after the Napoleonic army invaded their home countries. There are many examples when average people with conservative views were enthralled by the successes of authoritative rulers of distant countries. It is well known that even Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was popular among some Americans, who watched over the successes of Soviet industrialization in the early 1930s and compared it the terrible American reality in the time of the Great Depression.
Obviously, even Trump is currently trying to benefit from associating his media image with the personality of Putin – however, this link would have been a death sentence for any other American politician a couple of years ago. Yet, it will be also deleterious for Trump as well. The problem is that such association with the Russian leader puts into question the key principles of American democracy.
After all, Trump not only praises Putin, he is also implementing the most hidden dreams of the Russian leader. One of these dreams, for example, is that America itself will one day experience a “color revolution.”
When the Kremlin accused the U.S. of orchestrating protests throughout the world (which usually start after allegedly falsified elections), liberal critics of Putin ironically retorted that he should try to organize a color revolution in the U.S., if he really believes that it was possible in Georgia, Ukraine, Egypt and other countries thanks to foreign interference.
Five years ago it was a funny joke, which proved Russian accusations against Washington were groundless. However, now this joke is turning into a bitter reality for those in the political establishment within the U.S.
At any rate, during the latest debate, Trump said he could not say for sure if he was ready to recognize the results of the elections as legitimate. He preferred to keep the American people in suspense. Thus, he put into question the very advantage of the American political system: its capability to foster a peaceful transition of power from one presidential administration to the next.
The source for Trump’s doubts comes from the activity of Russian hackers, who allegedly hacked the e-mail servers of the Democratic National Committee. In fact, the situation in the U.S. resembles the beginning of a color revolution, as seen by U.S. intelligence. Thus, Putin can celebrate his victory, even though Russian hackers are not involved in the DNC hack at all.
However, Trump might be involved in creating such a situation, at least rhetorically. After all, it was Trump who publicly expressed his doubts. So, it is not ruled out that his supporters will come out to the streets to protest if he loses.
In the regard, the Kremlin is interested in supporting Trump, who is seen as the single political figure who can bring together the American fans of Putin and support a sort of “color revolution” in the U.S. So, Putin sees Trump as a tool of promoting his interests. He is well-aware that Trump won’t be able to improve U.S.-Russia relations – there are no reasons to dream about it.
First of all, the odds of Trump winning the 2016 election are very low and, secondly, it is very difficult to translate the sympathies of Trump’s supporters into practical cooperation. Such cooperation requires mutual concessions, but patriots and nationalists are not inclined to behave in such way both in the U.S. and Russia. It is one thing to admire Putin; it is another thing to come up with a compromise with him.
In this regard, the failure of Trump is more beneficial to the Kremlin than his victory. If Trump fails, he will be seen as a political martyr, an American politician who suffered for his sympathies toward Russia and its president. This will be a gift for Russian propagandists who will be able portray “a good America” that is ready to establish friendly relations and cooperation with Russia; in this situation they can put all the blame on the ruling elites of the Unites States, which act to hamper true U.S.-Russia friendship.
Thus, the Kremlin will use Trump and his supporters as the symbol of the possibility of U.S.-Russia friendship, which so far hasn’t come true. To implement this scenario, Moscow just needs the defeat of Trump on Nov. 8, because if the Republican president wins, the illusions about “Trump the Martyr” will be destroyed and the dreams about re-establishing U.S.-Russia collaboration will come to an end.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.