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.