Let’s step back from the on-rush of this amazing news cycle for just a moment, shall we?
As Donald Trump heads toward a now-inevitable impeachment trial, it’s easy to miss the larger geopolitical transformation he has wrought: As badly as things are going for Trump, they are going swimmingly for Vladimir Putin. And by swimmingly, I mean extraordinarily, stunningly well.
None of this is simply coincidental: Donald Trump has made Putin Great Again. Consider how Putin has expanded and extended his influence, bending American policy and displacing us around the world:
The leaders of Russia and Turkey agreed Tuesday after more than five hours of talks on how to jointly patrol parts of Syria that until recently were controlled by Kurdish forces.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey signed a 10-point memorandum at the Black Sea resort of Sochi that is set to go into effect at midday Wednesday local time.
President Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine for information he could use against political rivals came as he was being urged to adopt a hostile view of that country by its regional adversaries, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, current and former U.S. officials said.
Trump’s conversations with Putin, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and others reinforced his perception of Ukraine as a hopelessly corrupt country — one that Trump now also appears to believe sought to undermine him in the 2016 U.S. election, the officials said.
Meanwhile, the Russian efforts to hack our democracy not only continue, but seem to be escalating:
Vladimir Putin’s propagandists understand U.S. politics well, and early indications are that their goals are campaign classics: secure the base, Trump supporters, and divide the opposition. With America more divided than any time in recent history, the 2020 presidential election, from Russia’s perspective, will require a lighter touch than 2016. Their troll farm and state-sponsored news outlets won’t need to make “fake news”; America’s candidates and political parties will make plenty for the Kremlin to re-share with selected American audiences.
So we are getting stories like this:
- Facebook takedowns show new Russian activity targeted Biden, praised Trump
- Instagram is the new frontier of Russian disinformation efforts, but Putin can still reach Trump directly
Vladimir Putin set out to disrupt our politics, divide Americans, weaken NATO, and expand his own hegemony. His ROI has likely been beyond his wildest expectations.