By Paul Goble
Given that Russian liberals have joined American ones in condemning Donald Trump’s deference to Vladimir Putin (apn.ru/index.php?newsid=37419), Russian analyst Mikhail Khazin has suggested that the two leaders may have agreed to a common attack on the liberals in both countries.
Khazin made that suggestion (iarex.ru/news/58735.html), and the Rex News Agency editors have now generalized his remarks to suggest that Putin and Trump “may have come to a personal agreement about joint actions against liberal ‘financiers’ who in the US are leading the attack on Trump and in Russia control all economic policy” (iarex.ru/news/58903.html).
The editors cite the conclusion of retired Russian colonel Andrey Devyatov that it was “precisely the resolution of the issue about the ties of William Browder with Trump’s enemies in the US and not the discussion of Syria, nuclear arms or gas that was the key sign that an informal ‘deal’ between the leaders had been concluded” (youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=Lstt7m-cljA).
Browder of course is not an American citizen, but these suggestions may also be finding confirmation in the interest Moscow has in interviewing former American officials like Michael McFaul, the former US ambassador to Moscow, something that the White House has now said it is willing to consider.
The potential impact of such an arrangement in the United States has already sparked significant dissent. To allow Moscow such access and even to assist it would violate longstanding practice and almost certainly would lead to massive resignations at the State Department and elsewhere.
But the possible impact of such “a deal” if in fact it happened on Russia has not yet attracted much attention. However, that could be equally serious. In effect, it could mean that Trump would not raise any objections to a wholesale cleaning out of liberal advisors in the Russian government and their replacement with hardline statists.
And more seriously still it could mean that Washington at Trump’s direction would reduce still further its support for Russian liberals in the broadest sense, seeing them as enemies of Putin and hence enemies of himself.
The Russian commentators offer no direct evidence for the existence of such an arrangement, but there is one aspect of Trump’s approach that makes it not beyond the realm of the possible. As the current US president has demonstrated time and again, everything he is involved in is all about him – and Putin could have exploited this for his own purposes.