Favorite

Putin and Trump 

Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

"I never said Trump was 'brilliant,' " he might say. "That was a poor translation. I said he was 'colorful,' which nobody denies. Unfortunately, he is also an ignorant buffoon with no greater understanding of international relations than the average Moscow prostitute, of which he has known many."

Would Trump confine himself to mocking Putin's short stature and bare-chested TV appearances on his Twitter account? Or would the United States and Russia go to war footing overnight?

Fortunately, we can all relax. Everybody understands that Trump lives so deep in Putin's pocket that no such exchange seems possible. When it comes to foreign affairs, the only constant in our new president's pronouncements is that he has never yet said anything — not one single thing — that the Russian dictator would find objectionable.

It's really remarkable. On everything from the invasion of Crimea to the obsolescence of NATO and the breakup of the European Union, Trump's remarks may as well have been crafted in the Kremlin. Trump's Secretary of State designee had a medal pinned on his chest by Putin himself; his national security adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn, had a paid gig on the Russia Today TV network and has dined publicly with the Russian leader.

Weakening NATO, the military alliance that has brought stability and prosperity to the west since 1945, is the No. 1 priority of Putin's foreign policy, exposing Eastern Europe to the tender mercies of the Russian army. One needn't yearn for a new Cold War to realize what a terrible thing that would be.

As for the European Union, here are some relevant numbers: In 2016, total U.S. trade with the EU was roughly $650 billion. It's our most important economic partnership by far. Total trade with Russia totaled $20 billion.

Economically speaking, the EU is more than 30 times more valuable to the United States than is Russia. Any questions? Russia occupies a vast landmass and has a formidable military, but its economy is smaller than Italy's.

The Russians are a great, long-suffering people; we couldn't have won World War II without them. But does anybody want to buy Russian cars, computers or TVs? No, they do not.

The last thing the world needs is Russia looming over once-captive nations such as Poland and Lithuania like a bear at a picnic table. A Democrat who proposed such things would be accused of treason.

So anyway, here's what it's come to: In the course of defending Trump from scurrilous accusations in Buzzfeed, Putin also praised the beauty and skill of Moscow prostitutes, who he proclaimed "the best in the world."

Back in 2013 when the president-elect visited Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant, Putin alibied, "He wasn't a politician, we didn't even know about his political ambitions. Do they think that our special services are hunting for every U.S. billionaire?"

Actually, Vladimir, yes, they do. Even Trump knows that. During his recent press conference, he said he warned friends to behave themselves, "Because you don't want to see yourself on television. Cameras all over the place."

In Moscow, they even have a word for it: "kompromat," a combination of the Russian words for "compromising" and "information." Luring public figures into proverbial "honey traps" or manufacturing scandal against troublesome individuals is a common practice of authoritarian regimes everywhere — but nowhere more than in Russia.

It's well known that Putin got his big break in politics when, as a young intelligence officer, he affirmed that a murky videotape of a man cavorting with hookers was indeed a foe of Boris Yeltsin's. Today, sleazy videos of public figures are a regular feature on Russian TV. The sheer coarseness of political dialogue can be hard to believe.

I got a small taste of it last summer after unmasking a pair of Russian trolls that I called "Boris" and "Natasha" after the cartoon characters: all scatology, sexual insults and veiled threats clearly based upon internet misinformation. Some foreign journalists have had kiddie porn installed on their computers.

That said, apart from one lurid detail I won't repeat, none of the naughty bits in the dodgy Trump dossier struck me as shocking. Trump has long boasted to radio shock jock Howard Stern and others about barging into beauty contestants' dressing rooms, copping feels, etc. He's also on record about the supposedly loose morals of Russian women.

That said, whatever Putin has on Trump, I doubt it's sexual — everybody's favorite distraction. The real purpose of kompromat isn't necessarily blackmail, but the promotion of discord, cynicism and widespread disbelief in such "liberal" values as the distinction between truth and make-believe.

And when people come to believe that everybody's crooked and nobody can be believed, the strongman always wins.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments (34)

Showing 1-25 of 34

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-25 of 34

Add a comment

More by Gene Lyons

  • Out of control

    Unlike now infamous White House aide Rob Porter, I didn't have a Harvard professor and presidential confidant for a father. My old man was a New Jersey Irish working stiff, who taught me most of what I know about being a man. Among the enduring lessons he'd learned during his service as an artillery sergeant was that ethnic tribalism could be a trap.
    • Feb 15, 2018
  • Page and the Russians

    Let's put it this way: If poor, abused Carter Page wasn't a Russian agent back when Donald Trump plucked him from obscurity to advise his 2016 campaign, he'd definitely done all he could to look like one.
    • Feb 8, 2018
  • Country songs

    Driving along recently, I had a heretical thought: A person could get more sensible advice about men and women from the country oldies station than The New York Times. Or from The Washington Post, The New Republic, National Review or any publication devoted to nonstop analysis of metropolitan sexual angst written by twentysomething Women's Studies majors from expensive liberal arts colleges.
    • Feb 1, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Hillary hit jobs

    It's always been my conviction that if Hillary Clinton could be appointed president, she'd do a bang-up job. Getting elected, however, might prove more difficult.
    • Jul 28, 2016

Most Shared

  • A mayor stands up against freeway widening. No. Not in Little Rock.

    Another booming city, Indianapolis, fights ever wider urban freeways. Meanwhile, back in Little Rock .....
  • In the margins

    A rediscovered violin concerto brings an oft-forgotten composer into the limelight.
  • Donald Trump is historically unpopular — and not necessarily where you think

    My colleagues John Ray and Jesse Bacon and I estimate, in the first analysis of its kind for the 2018 election season, that the president's waning popularity isn't limited to coastal cities and states. The erosion of his electoral coalition has spread to The Natural State, extending far beyond the college towns and urban centers that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. From El Dorado to Sherwood, Fayetteville to Hot Springs, the president's approval rating is waning.
  • Arkansans join House vote to gut Americans with Disabilities Act

    Despite fierce protests from disabled people, the U.S. House voted today, mostly on party lines, to make it harder to sue businesses for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Of course Arkansas congressmen were on the wrong side.

Latest in Gene Lyons

  • Out of control

    Unlike now infamous White House aide Rob Porter, I didn't have a Harvard professor and presidential confidant for a father. My old man was a New Jersey Irish working stiff, who taught me most of what I know about being a man. Among the enduring lessons he'd learned during his service as an artillery sergeant was that ethnic tribalism could be a trap.
    • Feb 15, 2018
  • Page and the Russians

    Let's put it this way: If poor, abused Carter Page wasn't a Russian agent back when Donald Trump plucked him from obscurity to advise his 2016 campaign, he'd definitely done all he could to look like one.
    • Feb 8, 2018
  • Country songs

    Driving along recently, I had a heretical thought: A person could get more sensible advice about men and women from the country oldies station than The New York Times. Or from The Washington Post, The New Republic, National Review or any publication devoted to nonstop analysis of metropolitan sexual angst written by twentysomething Women's Studies majors from expensive liberal arts colleges.
    • Feb 1, 2018
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

February

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28  

Most Viewed

  • Donald Trump is historically unpopular — and not necessarily where you think

    My colleagues John Ray and Jesse Bacon and I estimate, in the first analysis of its kind for the 2018 election season, that the president's waning popularity isn't limited to coastal cities and states. The erosion of his electoral coalition has spread to The Natural State, extending far beyond the college towns and urban centers that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. From El Dorado to Sherwood, Fayetteville to Hot Springs, the president's approval rating is waning.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Out of control

    • And Olphart - hey, That is a witty reply - good for you!

    • on February 17, 2018
  • Re: Out of control

    • Oh for god's sake - read the play - just read the play before going…

    • on February 16, 2018
  • Re: Out of control

    • Aloysius, Not even a large man with a bodyguard detail acting in a way intended…

    • on February 16, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation