GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has made it clear that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “stronger leader” than President Obama, repeating that claim in the Sept. 7 forum on national security. Former U.S. intelligence officials have responded by saying that Trump’s proposed policies read like a “Kremlin wish list” and declare this embrace of Putin disqualifies Trump from serving as our nation’s commander-in-chief.
Trump is clearly drawn to Putin’s authoritarian style and his 82 percent approval rating – a rating that the New York Times points out is inflated because many of Putin’s opponents have been exiled, imprisoned or in some cases even killed. So, it’s worth taking a closer look at Putin’s Russia.
In the Sept. 29 issue of the New York Review of Books, University of Pennsylvania professor Benjamin Nathans dives into a deep discussion around “The real power of Putin,” offering a reading list of nine books that trace Putin’s journey from a young lieutenant colonel guarding the KGB mansion in 1989 Berlin to a president who has eliminated regional elections of governors, annexed neighboring Crimea and steadily consolidated his power. Authors include several veteran journalists, scholars and political scientists.
Nathans argues that in the U.S., the admiration between Trump and Putin should be the least of our worries:
“More significant—and more alarming—than any mutual flattery between the two autocratic figures, however, have been the financial ties between the Trump camp and a range of Putin’s allies. Paul Manafort, who resigned as Trump’s campaign manager on August 19, previously sold his services to Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian leader whose ousting in February 2014 led to Putin’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine, as well as to Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire aluminum magnate and Putin confidante who was banned from entering the United States. Carter Page, one of Trump’s foreign policy advisors, formerly worked for Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom. Trump himself, after his hotel and casino business went bankrupt in 2004, benefited significantly from infusions of capital that originated with Russian oligarchs.”
And Nathans offers this take on the advantage Putin sees in supporting Trump:
“For Putin, Trump represents not just a man with whom the Kremlin can do business, but potentially the most useful among the cohort of ultra-nationalists, including Nigel Farage in Britain, Marine Le Pen in France, and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, who are leading the latest assault on globalization, neoliberalism, and the Western alliance system—this time from within.”