The Republicans-Trump-Putin love triangle

Why does the sitting U.S. President continue to praise Putin and show him great signs of deference?

Published May 13, 2019 4:00AM (EDT)

Vladimir Putin; Donald Trump (AP/Getty/Salon)
Vladimir Putin; Donald Trump (AP/Getty/Salon)

This piece originally appeared on The Globalist.

Ever since U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no collusion, Americans are wondering why Donald Trump is so eager to continue sidling up to Vladimir Putin.

Trump continues to praise Putin and denies that Russia interfered in the U.S. election on his behalf — something that U.S. Intelligence agencies all agree on. Why under such circumstances does the sitting U.S. President continue to praise Putin and show him great signs of deference?

Last Friday, Trump actually discussed the Mueller report in an hour and a half conversation with Putin, calling it a “Russia hoax.”

If Putin has nothing on Trump, what is about the Russian leader that appeals to him so much?

Here is one possibility: Maybe Trump likes Putin because Putin is letting him in on his political secrets.

When Putin was plucked from obscurity and anointed by Boris Yeltsin as his successor, he had no political party to back him. That party, called United Russia, wasn’t formed until 2001, nearly two years after Putin became president.

Nevertheless, the outfit promptly won a majority in the Russian Parliament, and never relinquished it. It currently holds a so-called constitutional majority, accounting for more than two-thirds of all seats.

Political parties as mere vessels for the big leader

United Russia has no ideology and was cobbled together from politicians of different stripes who were willing to act as Putin’s toadies. It is a rubber stamp for legislative proposals by the Kremlin and an echo chamber for Putin.

Whatever Putin wants to do, United Russia is always ready with a bill. It approved the annexation of Crimea, the increase in the retirement age, the creation of “sovereign Internet.” Its unanimity would be the envy of the Supreme Soviet, the communist-era parliament.

As the former speaker Boris Gryzlov once said, “The Parliament is no place for discussions.” The Russian Parliament certainly is not.

Two men by themselves: Putin and Trump

Although Trump announced his candidacy in 2015 as a Republican, he really was on his own. The Republican establishment was strongly opposed to him, with only a few, such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie or Senator Jeff Sessions, coming forward to endorse him.

Yet, the Republican Party has come a long way, so that it now looks the spitting image of United Russia. All those Republicans who were then heaping scorn on Trump have long ago been made to eat their words. Lindsey Graham, once one of Trump’s harshest critics, is today his most ardent lick-spittle in the U.S. Senate.

No matter how untrue, undignified and embarrassing Trump’s words or actions, no matter how much he demeans the presidency or undermines American institutions, the Republicans keep mum.

The party used to pride itself on its uncompromising principles. The Republicans stood for law and order, patriotism, free trade, limited government and fiscal conservatism. Under Trump, all that has been abandoned — often after a single tweet from the Dear Leader.

The party of religious piety, family values, strong marriage and other such things has embraced a twice-divorced libertine who has lied more than 10 thousand times in two years.

A mere service organization for Trump

The only principle that the United America Party now has is Trump and his whims. These men and women, elected to represent the American people, might as well be members of the Russian Parliament.

It’s actually even worse: Russians do have an undisciplined and cynical streak, whereas U.S. Republicans quickly fall in line, close their ranks and efficiently enable “the best president in history” – even as he undermines the United States.

The Democrats end up as patsies, too

But what about the U.S. Democrats? Well, in Putin’s mode of operations, there is an answer for that too. You see, unlike the bad old Soviet era, Russia is a democracy.

There are several official opposition parties in Russia. But whether they are called the Communists or the Liberal Democrats they are all the same. They are, essentially, clowns whose role is to play parliamentary opposition. They criticize the government — but never too harshly and never on issues that matter.

True enough, the Democratic Party is a real, not make-believe opposition. It holds power in one of the two Houses of Congress and is mounting serious investigations of the president and his administration.

But it turns out that, despite all the talk about checks and balances, the Democrats have no more real power than Putin’s fake opposition parties. The White House and members of the Trump Administration simply ignore their subpoenas and take Congress to court to delay or thwart its investigations. It displays the most blatant contempt for its coequal branch of government.

The Republican majority in the Senate protects the President, while voter suppression at the state level in turn protects their majority. And if they fail, there are courts that are being busily stuffed with political hacks, as well as a Republican majority on the Supreme Court.

In this way, the famous American system of checks and balances and separation of power goes down the drain. Perhaps the Founding Fathers should go back to the drawing board.

Two billionaires support regimes

Meanwhile, look at the results. Russia is run for the benefit of a small coterie of Putin’s buddies. They are completely above the law. They run Russia’s state-owned resource companies, they get all the multibillion-dollar state contracts effectively stealing from the budget. They have privatized the state. Of the trillions of petrodollars Russia earned over the past two decades, they have stolen a lion’s share.

It is not unlike what is happening in the United States. The tax reform of 2018 was a massive giveaway of America’s national wealth to the One Percent of the richest people in the country — many of whom are Trump backers and buddies. While the already superrich get even richer, the trillion-dollar federal budget deficit is a bill that will eventually be footed by all Americans.

True, Putin’s buddies are former small-time thugs and washed-up KGB officers who owe their elevation and billion-dollar fortunes to Putin, whereas Trump’s friends had been wealthy before Trump entered the White House.

But who cares how the big fortunes were made? After all, Trump’s grandfather, too, made his money by running a brothel for Klondike gold diggers…

By Alexei Bayer

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