Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president against Trump was almost entirely fueled by Russophobic hysteria and conspiracy theories. So, it’s amusing, though not entirely unexpected, to see how quickly Trump’s administration has managed to co-opt the hysteria and use it in his favor.
Trump ridiculed Democrats for months over their constant focus on Russia and Vladimir Putin. Now his administration is using some of the exact same talking points because suddenly, it’s convenient.
What changed? Well, the great anti-interventionist Trump decided he needed to bomb a Syrian airfield because he felt bad about “beautiful little babies” dying at the hands of the monstrous Bashar Assad. Translation: he wanted to prove he isn’t a Kremlin agent while simultaneously boosting his popularity ratings — and dropping bombs remains the best way to earn immediate bipartisan support in Washington.
Not to mention the fact that the media, once the president’s enemy number one, can always be relied upon to support new wars or bombing campaigns. Trump’s strike had news anchors literally salivating over footage of missiles flying through the sky.
Now, surprise surprise, anyone who questions Trump’s motives or asks for an independent investigation into Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons is a victim of Russian disinformation and “false narratives” spread by the Kremlin to “confuse the world community.”
A few short months ago, anyone who voiced support for Donald Trump was a Russia-loving traitor. In a stunning turnaround, now anyone who finds themselves less than enamored by Trump’s bombing in Syria is also a Russian shill. Funny how that works.
Russia remains the fall guy for all seasons.
“It’s boring, ladies.”
Putin, at a news conference this week with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, weighed in on the latest and borrowed a line from a 1928 Soviet satirical novel by Ilya Ilf and Yevgeny Petrov: “It’s boring, ladies,” he said. “We have seen this all before.”
We have seen it all before. Whether it’s the US government starting wars based on false evidence, or simply the natural tendency to use Russia as its eternal scapegoat, there’s nothing new here. It’s simply a playbook that works. Why would Trump change it change it now?
Less than 100 days into the new US administration, Putin has concluded that the working relationship between the US and Russia has not improved, not even stayed level, but actually “deteriorated” further, since Trump took office. Trump himself said on Wednesday: “We may be at an all-time low in terms of a relationship with Russia.” Quite the admission from the guy who said he could turn it all around.
Who would have thought it? Trump and Putin, not best buddies after all.
Actually, it was pretty easy to predict if you weren’t busy writing embarrassingly off-base articles about an inevitable Putin-Trump “bromance” that would put an end to the world as we know it.
Almost two years ago, I wrote an op-ed which argued that there would likely be no bromance at all — and that Trump’s supposedly “pro-Russia” rhetoric was completely unreliable given how quickly his positions seem to change. I also wrote that what Trump really believes, if you look just beneath the surface, is that the US needs not to be nicer to Russia, but tougher on it. At the time, many people dismissed the idea completely, and the bromance pieces kept coming.
But that’s what we’re seeing now; a Trump who thinks he needs to correct Obama’s weakness by being the tough guy you don’t mess with. To this end, he has done a 180 on so many of his campaign ‘positions’ now it’s hard to keep track. The only logical assumption is that Trump is guided by whatever he thinks will earn him the most popularity and/or make him look toughest — and he never really had ‘positions’ on these issues to begin with.
As I write, Trump has just announced two more policy U-turns. Apparently, NATO is “no longer obsolete,”and China will not be labeled a currency manipulator — something he had promised to do on “day one” in office.
Is there anything at all left of Trump’s campaign? His entire platform seems to have completely evaporated. At this rate, he might as well have chosen Clinton as his running mate. They’re closer and closer to becoming an ideological match by the day.
Syria talking points
When it comes to Syria, if you had just arrived back from a holiday on Mars unaware that power had changed hands in Washington, reading the most recent statements from US officials, you’d be forgiven for thinking Barack Obama was still in office. The talking points are almost identical.
Trump’s administration, like Obama’s, maintains a double act of both constant public criticism leveled toward Russia, coupled with calls for cooperation on areas of mutual interest. When push comes to shove, however, US officials constantly throw cold water on any ideas of actual cooperation before it can come to fruition.
“The world’s two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in Moscow this week.
Trump chimed in Thursday on Twitter (where else?) to say that things between the US and Russia will “work out fine” when everyone “comes to their senses.”
That kind of talk makes it sound like the White House is interested in change. But actions tend to speak louder than words — and this administration’s actions so far indicate that there is no real appetite for improving soured relations.
It seems that keeping Russia in the enemy column is one thing every US administration can agree on.
By Danielle Ryan