If I were Vladimir Putin, what would I like to get for Christmas?
An attractive Russian woman beguiling a bunch of armed Americans into supporting the expansion of the Russian arms industry? Sure, that’s a nice stocking stuffer.
But if I’m Vladimir Putin, supreme ruler of the biggest country in the world, I dream big. I dream of forcing the global hegemon, the United States of America, which defeated my empire in the greatest geopolitical struggle of the 20th century, out of my sphere of influence. To do that, I dream of destroying NATO. To do that, I dream of driving a wedge between the United States and Germany, those bastards who invaded us twice in the last century and who now host the largest deployment of U.S. troops in Europe.
Hmm… so what could I do to undermine Germany’s confidence in an alliance rooted in deep political, economic, and cultural ties?
Ах, может быть ничего… Ah, perhaps nothing. I just sit back and let the President of the United States do that for me. What did Chancellor Merkel learn from her meeting with my friend Donald this month?
This was the summation provided to me by a senior European diplomat briefed on the meeting. Trump’s preparedness was roughly that of a fourth grader. He began the conversation by telling Merkel that Germany owes the United States hundreds of billions of dollars for defending it through NATO, and concluded by saying, “You are terrific” but still owe all that dough. Little else concerned him.
Trump knew nothing of the proposed European-American deal known as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, little about Russian aggression in Ukraine or the Minsk agreements, and was so scatterbrained that German officials concluded that the president’s daughter Ivanka, who had no formal reason to be there, was the more prepared and helpful….
Merkel is not one to fuss. But Trump’s behavior appalled her entourage and reinforced a conclusion already reached about this presidency in several European capitals: It is possible to do business with Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, but these officials are flying blind because above them at the White House rages a whirlwind of incompetence and ignorance.
Trump’s United States of America has become an unserious country, the offender of the free world [Roger Cohen, “The Offender of the Free World,” New York Times, 2017.03.28].
If I were Putin, I’d be laughing just like Jabba. If I were Putin, I’d be thinking, East Germany left us; united Germany will leave you, Donald. You, Donald, shall understand what we felt in 1989. You shall see your NATO curtain fall. You shall see your former friends play Molotov to our Ribbentrop, making friends to forestall conflict in the absence of reliable friends in the West. You shall be America’s Gorbachev, the man with the funny thing on top of his head who leads his empire to ruin in six years… or less.
Here’s mud in your eye, Donald—oh, forgive me! I see you have already muddied yourself and your—how do you say in America?—hashtag-Sad, hashtag-Failing empire.
Антон! Дай мне телефон! Надо позвонить Ангеле—Anton! Give me the phone! I must call Angela….