Of all of Trump’s many off-the-wall utterances, the ones about Putin and Russia may well present the most long-range adverse consequences for the U.S. as well as for the rest of the world if Trump were president. Among those comments are not only those reflecting admiration for Putin but also his suggestion that Putin should hang onto the Crimea and his references putting Eastern Europe up for grabs as he questions our commitment to our NATO allies.
What Trump is doing for his buddy Putin is conveying that a Russian grab for more territory is something that he, the great Artisan of the Deal, is prepared to negotiate. These remarks can embolden Putin to do what he would clearly most like to accomplish: restoring the former Soviet Union both in territory and as a nemesis of the West. The result would be to undo what President Reagan accomplished so effectively through military spending, by some estimates totaling $3 trillion, that goaded the Soviet Union into trying to match suit, ultimately bankrupting it out of existence. That was an enormous accomplishment for world peace in an age during which the thermonuclear cloud was overhanging all of us with “mutual assured destruction” the only proffered safeguard against Armageddon. That accomplishment also secured the liberation of millions enslaved behind Russia’s Iron Curtain across Eastern Europe.
Trump seems to have no appreciation for what was accomplished by President Reagan or how easy it would be to undo by cozying up to Putin and giving him any indication that the U.S. would look the other way to Russia’s full absorption of Putin’s recent territorial aggrandizements and his glaringly apparent ambition for more. Trump’s and Putin’s cozying-up conduct should scare us all: Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, hawks and doves, one-percenters and everyone else.
How anyone could offer such comfort and accommodation to a menacing foreign leader with the thermonuclear weapons to wipe out the U.S. and most of the rest of the world is impossible to fathom but fully consistent with the twisted thinking of a sociopath, as I argued in my prior columns on Trump (March 10 and July 18). I continue to encourage reading the 2009 book The Sociopath Next Door by Harvard clinical professor Martha Stout, Ph.D. and seeing whether Trump’s conduct doesn’t fit perfectly the sad picture it presents. Sociopaths can, and almost surely will, bring about enormous destruction when they attain positions of power, as the examples in Dr. Stout’s book illustrate. They need constant affirmation and adulation; they cozy up when they get it and lash out when they don’t. They’ll do whatever it takes to get that adulation, and they’ll take it from whomever will give it even if it means being a Putin fellow-traveler.
Inviting the Russians to hack U.S. computer sites is yet another illustration of how far Trump will go. None of this (including what Trump said disparaging the U.S. in his recent appearance on Russian TV) is lost on Putin, and I would fully expect that if Trump were to get elected, shortly after his inauguration Putin would occupy Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia as an opening gambit even as he solidifies his hold on the Crimea and renews his attempted takeover of Ukraine. In doing so, he would take a page from Hitler’s brazen occupation of the demilitarized Rhineland in 1936 in violation of treaty obligations but unmet by unified multinational response. Trump would then proudly and peremptorily cut a deal with Putin that Putin will go no further. As western and eastern Europe look on in fear and dismay, Trump will return triumphant with his agreement signed by Putin, much as Britain’s Neville Chamberlain did after signing his ill-fated Munich Agreement with Hitler in 1938 that gave up Czechoslovakia. Will Trump then similarly declare, with his dim knowledge of history, “peace for our time?”
Western Europeans will know they can’t rely anymore on a protective U.S. umbrella and will need to cozy up to Russia themselves, and all that President Reagan worked so brilliantly to accomplish at huge expense will go down the drain as Russian hegemony is not only restored over eastern Europe but is extended over a fearful western Europe as well. With a renewed Soviet Union on its border, China will also have to reconsider its international relationships.
For a sociopath, no one — and nothing — counts but himself. The dangers for our nation are enormous if Trump is elected, and it’s time for every voter to focus on that.