By Paul Goble
In the wake of Tuesday’s election in the United States, all too many commentators in the West appear to have forgotten that Vladimir Putin has been backing Donald Trump not because they are soul mates but rather as a means to a much larger end: the weakening of the US and the destruction of key institutions of Western integration like NATO.
Putin may prove to be wrong in assuming that Trump will be an effective means to that end, but it is clear the Kremlin leader is far more pleased by the impact of the conflicts that have broken out in the US and by speculation in Western capitals about Washington’s loss of influence than simply by having Trump on his way to the White House.
At least that is suggested by the Schadenfreude of most Russian news reports about the anti-Trump demonstrations and the plans for a referendum on Californian independence as well as by the enthusiastic support Moscow media have given to all discussions in the West suggesting that Trump’s election will weaken US influence and Western alliances.
And it is also suggested by three new commentaries — fondsk.ru/news/2016/11/11/tramp-i-revoljucionnye-nastroenija-v-amerike-43024.html, politobzor.net/show-112270-klinton-gotovit-cvetnuyu-revolyuciyu-v-ssha.html and stoletie.ru/rossiya_i_mir/i_vse_zhe_ruka_putina_343.htm – that point to a larger and longer range Russian policy.
None of this is to say that Putin isn’t pleased to have someone in the White House who is at odds with so much of the American establishment and the establishment of Western countries. Rather it is to insist that he is far more concerned about the consequences of that than he is about any personal relationship he may have with Trump now or in the future.
As has been so often in the case, Putin may overplay his hand and produce exactly the opposite of what he intends – Invading Ukraine led to the strengthening of NATO not its disintegration – but he can be countered if and only if the goals he has are clearly understood and not obscured by mistaken idea that he cares about personal ties as much as do many in the West.