Aug 06,2018 – JORDAN TIMES – Nina L. Khrushcheva
NEW YORK — At a summit with US President Donald Trump in Helsinki last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin proved that he remains a master of the tradecraft he perfected in the 1980s as a Soviet operative in East Germany. Trump wilted under Putin’s impassive KGB-trained gaze.
After the summit, Trump declared that he trusted Putin’s assurance that Russia had no reason to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election. The statement, which contradicted US intelligence agencies, was quickly condemned by many in the US security establishment, US Democrats and even some Republicans. Paul Ryan, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, said that Trump “must appreciate that Russia is not our ally”. Some went so far as to call Trump’s behaviour “treason”.
Trump, as usual, quickly backtracked, claiming that he had misarticulated a “double negative”. “The sentence should have been, ‘I do not see any reason why it would not be Russia,’” he asserted. But then, in another characteristic move, Trump hedged his correction: “It could be other people also. There are a lot of people out there.” Now Trump says that if Russia does meddle again, it would be to support the Democrats.
All of these flip-flops have reinforced the belief that Putin has something on Trump, a perception that the Russian president seems to welcome. In Helsinki, Putin confirmed that he had wanted Trump to win the election, a calculated move, no doubt, that he knew would seem to corroborate accusations that Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with the Kremlin. Given how beneficial the Trump-induced chaos has been to Russia thus far, Putin must have decided to stir the pot more vigorously.
Of course, in the long and complex history of US-Russia relations, each country has meddled in the other’s domestic affairs. During the Cold War, the Soviets sponsored the Communist Party USA.
After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Americans were heavily involved in the transition process, contributing to the chaotic capitalism of the Boris Yeltsin era. In fact, it was partly those Western-driven reforms, which did more harm than good, which helped bring Putin to power in 2000. Russians wanted a leader who wouldn’t listen too closely to US advice.