Robert Reich: Who’s Vladimir Putin’s Best Friend In The World? – OpEd


The mainstream media doesn’t seem to want to talk about this, but it’s important that America and the world face what seems increasingly clear: Vladimir Putin’s best friend in the world — the person prepared to allow Putin to mount additional wars of aggression in Europe — is the leading Republican contender for president of the United States, Donald Trump.

On Saturday, during a rally at Coastal Carolina University, Trump ramped up his attacks on NATO, claiming he suggested to a European leader that he would encourage Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to member countries he views as not spending enough on their own defense:

“One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said, ‘Well, sir, if we don’t pay and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us?. I said, ‘You didn’t pay. You’re delinquent.’ He said, ‘Yes, let’s say that happened.’ No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want.”

Trump’s comment puts into context his strong opposition to providing more aid for Ukraine, and why Republican lawmakers are now backing off such funding. 

It’s a giant turnabout for the Republican Party. Shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, only 11 Senate Republicans voted against providing aid to Ukraine. This past Thursday, 31 Senate Republicans voted against it. (It’s unclear whether House Republicans will even permit a vote on the package.)

Trump is also promising that if reelected president, he’ll resolve Putin’s war against Ukraine within 24 hours. Putin says he “cannot help but feel happy about” Trump’s promise. Of course Putin is happy. Trump has indicated he’d trade away Ukrainian territory,

Trump, in turn, is pleased by Putin’s happy response. “I got along with Putin. Let me tell you, I got along with him really well,” Trump said. “And that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”

It’s a love affair made in hell: a vicious Russian dictator who detests democracy and a would-be American dictator who detests democracy. And the logic is inescapable: Putin rules Trump, and Trump rules the Republican Party; hence, Putin rules the Republican Party. 

When Russia first invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Trump praised Putin as “a guy who is very savvy,” and Trump characterized the invasion of Ukraine as “genius.”

Trump continues to cozy up to the Russian dictator. In a recent campaign speech, Trump even quoted Putin saying that the legal case against Trump “shows the rottenness of the American political system.” That Trump can get away with this, without anyone pointing out the rottenness of Russia’s political system under Putin, is evidence of how Putin’s and Trump’s anti-democracy movement has been normalized in America. 

And it clearly is an anti-democracy movement — Putin and Trump against the major democracies of the West, including America. Last month, it was reported that during a private meeting in 2020, Trump went further then he did Saturday night. He told European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that “if Europe is under attack we will never come to help you and to support you. NATO is dead.” 

What is Trump getting out of this? For years, Russia has been pumping disinformation into American social media and by all accounts continues to do so. I feel confident in saying that Russia is not doing it in support of Joe Biden. 

While we’re at it, let’s not forget Trump’s and Putin’s favorite media mouthpiece, Tucker Carlson — the darling of America’s anti-democracy movement. 

In Carlson’s video explaining his decision to interview Putin last week, Carlson asserted that Putin has been “misunderstood” and that Americans and other English-speaking people are unaware of what’s really happening regarding the war in Ukraine. “No one has told them the truth,” Carlson said. The English-speaking “outlets are corrupt. They lie to their readers and viewers.”

Putin’s purpose in doing the interview was to get the West to make a favorable deal to end the war — a deal exactly like the one Trump and Carlson have been touting: Cement Russia’s control of the Ukrainian territory it has already captured and put a more Russia-friendly government in Kyiv.

I’m old enough to remember when the Republican Party and its spokesmen were intensely anti-communist, anti-Soviet, and anti-Russian. I remember Republican lawmakers blaming Democrats for allowing Russia to occupy and then defeat the revolution in Hungary, in 1956. I remember Republican lawmakers outraged about Russia’s invasion of Czechoslovakia to crack down on reformist trends in Prague, in 1968. 

Now, a Russian president can invade neighboring Ukraine without any provocation —targeting civilian populations, killing and injuring hundreds of thousands — and what do Republican lawmakers do? They refuse to help Ukraine — encouraging Putin’s aggression elsewhere. 

Why? Because of Donald Trump’s love affair with Putin, which turns on Putin’s obvious support for Trump in the 2024 election. And Trump’s increasing control over the Republican Party.

This is what the mainstream media ought to be screaming about — not that a former Trump-appointed Justice Department official turned special counsel thinks Biden’s memory is bad.

This article was published at Robert Reich’s Substack

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

One thought on “Robert Reich: Who’s Vladimir Putin’s Best Friend In The World? – OpEd

  • February 14, 2024 at 5:53 am

    Your words are spot-on. The actions and speech of Trump leaves me apoplectic. I guess psychiatrists can understand the mental illness that explains what drives him, but I cannot. He is profoundly ignorant of history, has a great need for approval from authoritarians, seeks to be an authoritarian himself, and at the same time is a master con artist who is riding a wave of discontent emanating from the low information masses of this country. He is leading a mob of opportunists, sycophants, bigots, racists, liars, and believers yet to understand they are being duped; a mob of proportions I never knew existed in this country. He stands for nothing and he has no conception of what it means to be truthful. He hugs the flag but at the same time has no understanding of the principles on which this country was founded and for which the flag stands. There can be no love of country without this understanding. As President Biden said today, his statements are un-American (a profound understatement). I care not about his ignorance and mental illness. He is a danger to this country and needs to be held strictly accountable to the fullest extent of the law for his words and deeds. I thank you for speaking out. Where is Biden? When will he be speaking out forcefully? At this time we don’t need a politician saying what people tell him will get votes. We need a leader speaking the truth to the American people and calling out the lies and incredible ignorance and danger coming from the other side. The only good thing emerging from this episode in our history is that the Trump phenomenon, for those of us who are watching, is exposing many weaknesses in our laws and constitution that need to be fixed, how extremely fragile our democratic institutions are, how important it is to educate our citizenry, and how important it is to promote excellence in leadership.


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