If Donald Trump wins the presidency on Nov. 8th, his victory would be celebrated as much in the Kremlin as in Trump Tower. An alliance between Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin that blossomed on the campaign trail could become a full working partnership between the Russian strongman and the American wanna-be.
While there are many potential policies of a Trump Administration that would have distressing effects – 25 million people losing their health insurance, for example – for PutinTrump.org, the biggest concerns center around what a Putin-Trump world might look like starting in January 2017. It is not too far-fetched to suppose that a President Trump and Russian President Putin will continue their mutual praise – an unwavering part of the recent campaign. So, what could this relationship mean for national security and traditional U.S. alliances?
Based on Trump’s and Putin’s words and actions, these could be the scary realities of a Putin-Trump world. No one voting for Trump can say they were not warned.
A weakened NATO alliance between U.S. and traditional allies: Trump has called NATO obsolete and implied that if its members don’t pay more for their own defense, the U.S. will not defend them from attack. This is in direct conflict with the NATO charter. NATO has been the lynchpin of American foreign policy since the end of World War II, and is detested by Putin, who would like nothing better than see the alliance collapse. Since 2008, Russia has moved troops into the former Soviet republics of Georgia and the Ukraine, and now Russia is making military moves that look like preparations to attack the small, independent Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania – all members of NATO. A President Trump, based on his statements of support for Putin, is unlikely to commit U.S. troops for the Baltic States’ defense, undermining NATO’s central tenet that an attack against one member is considered an attack against all. NATO would be unlikely to survive such a demonstration of its own futility.
The NATO alliance has kept peace among the great powers in Europe for 70 years, warding off most Russian aggression. Without a robust NATO, an expansionist Russia may be emboldened to act even more aggressively. Without the United States’ protection, some allies may be more likely to seek accommodation with such a powerful state on the march – a recipe for “peace in our time” but paving the way for more war in the future.
No sanctions for Ukraine invasion, and a freer hand for Russia worldwide: On the campaign trail, Trump has said he sees no need for sanctions against Russia for its 2014 invasion and takeover of the Crimea region. Without U.S. leadership, America’s European allies are not likely to keep the sanctions on their own – giving Putin a freer hand for Russian expansionism, as well as more money flowing into Russia. In the interest of what Trump has called “getting along” with Russia, there could there be a dramatic U-turn in other U.S foreign policies, aligning the U.S. more with Russia in the Middle East, as well? In Syria, that might mean joining Russia in effectively supporting the Assad regime, which has been attacking civilians in a brutal war. It is not hard to picture a crumbling of American alliances and policies around the world that have been in place for decades.
More nuclear weapons: As President, Trump has said he would end the Iran nuclear agreement, which will have the effect of immediately allowing Iran to resume its nuclear program, adding greater instability to the already unstable Middle East. Trump has also called on Japan and South Korea to get their own nuclear weapons, which could lead to greater global proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Propaganda as policy: Donald Trump’s rhetoric has regularly repeated the same lines spouted by Russian propagandists:
None of these statements is true. Why should we think a President Trump would stop spouting false Russian propaganda once elected?
Donald Trump and his aides have clearly adopted the disorienting propaganda technique wielded by Putin that was characterized as a “firehose of falsehoods” in a recent RAND Corporation study. Throughout his campaign Trump has consistently repeated known lies and half-truths, from the charge that Obama was not born in the United States to the claim that most Mexican immigrants are rapists and thieves. This overwhelming deluge of misinformation leaves many unable to discern fact from fiction – and even the most robust fact-checking by the media is never able to fully catch up with the lie-a-minute flood that Trump has unleashed in his campaign.
A U.S. administration that employs similar propaganda techniques would undermine democratic governance and institutions that depend on facts – and dialogue and policies based on those facts. The overall effect would be to undermine public trust in all American governments and institutions, as well as the media reporting on them.
Foreign election interference becomes the norm: Trump has never condemned Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee and interference in U.S. electoral politics, even when informed about it by top-ranking intelligence officials. Like propaganda campaigns, hacking and sabotaging the internet infrastructure could undermine faith in American democracy by compromising independent American elections and calling into question the results. Many believe that this has been Putin’s goal in interfering in this election all along.
Authoritarian rule: Trump has threatened to jail his political opponent, to sue women who accuse him of sexual assault, to limit reporters’ access to him and his events, and to change libel laws to make it easier to punish news organizations that report facts about him that he doesn’t like. These are the policies of someone, like Putin, who wants to control his constituency rather than protect a democracy.
If American voters elect a President Trump on Tuesday, this nation will have set itself on a dangerous path – one that would embolden Russian expansionism and erode American strength and cooperation among allies around the world. With all these real concerns about national security and the U.S. position in the world, the biggest danger is at home: This country would find its cherished democratic values weakened. In this election, American democracy really is on the line.
(Sources noted inline. Photo by Gage Skidmore)