Only in America – in America’s news media – is Vladimir Putin any sort of “legitimate head of state”. But then, for context, America’s news media still thinks of (and treats) the Republican Party as legitimate actors in American politics. Donald Trump has handed our press not merely a smoking gun, but a smoking thermonuclear device – his open admission that he wanted and still wants to overthrow a free and fair election result because he lost. Trump’s position here – “the rule of law is dead to me” – is NOT , in fact, on the ballot. Neither is ending the greatest experiment ever in human self government. The overwhelming majority of Americans have zero interest in doing such a thing; in fact, the majority of us are fighting for the exact opposite. We want to guarantee that every American citizen over 18 gets registered to vote automatically and they are encouraged to vote in every single election no matter how “small” or seemingly “trivial”. The last place the majority of Americans want America to be like is Russia. And the last person the majority of Americans would want running America is Vlad Putin.
That’s not because we don’t like Vlad’s haircut.
We hate his corruption – and his corruption is the biggest part of his “brand”. Putin’s corruption is no secret to anyone outside America’s borders – least of all in Europe where they’re flooded by Putinesque corruption even more than we are here. The press outside our borders don’t grovel at every leader’s feet like the American press does. Well, like the American press does when Republicans are in power – or like they did when Trump ran the White House. Want to know how awful American journalism is right now? Watch any news conference from the four Trump years and Joe Biden’s year plus change so far. On the one hand, our news media regularly normalized Trumpian corruption, racism and even treason! “Hey, Russia, if you’re listening…!” wasn’t some banal, harmless shout from the campaign trail. It was an open invitation to assault an American election. Which is exactly what happened.
Even if one understood Putin as head of state of a legitimate government, we KNOW for a fact that that government has hostile intentions toward us as it has since its Soviet Union days. We know for a fact that Putin hi8mself was a dedicated cold warrior. We know for a fact that he ran Russia’s intelligence service – and used what he knew because of that job to muscle Boris Yeltsin out of power on December 31, 1999 and himself INTO power. While Russia under Putin has seemed to flirt with democracy, mostly, Russia has refused to return democracy’s phone calls or texts. It’s not really a democracy if you murder all your opponents instead of running against them freely and fairly.
That Putin got where he got without getting killed should inform us: in a world of bad actors, he’s the baddest. He knows you can’t just have power, you must use power relentlessly – and demonstrate the fierceness of your power so as to dissuade any competitors. That’s why Putin seems to swagger from crisis to crisis. He is what a real “crisis actor” looks like.
One wouldn’t be crazy to think Putin was openly auditioning to be our next “Bond Villain”. Maybe he’s on to something… Putin checks off the “overcompensating for some male deficiency” box several times over -like he didn’t trust that we’d get how “male” and “manly” he is without directly telling us. It’s entirely possible Vlad’s hung like a hamster. Men have been known to overcompensate that badly. But, it’s also possible that Vlad’s genuinely proud of his “Pravda Package”. C’mon – look at the guy! I bet if Vlad thought he could get away with putting out a dick pic, he’d do it. “There, Joe Biden, measure up to THAT!”
Putin also checks off the “Relentless Asshole” box all by itself. That’s his nationalism at work. That’s what separates Putin from regular, old, been-there, done-that Bond Villains. If one went only by Putin’s Wikipedia page – which, it seems, our news media does – one would think Putin was an ambitious young man who rose through the ranks of the Russian intelligence services, briefly running them before becoming Prime Minister and then – with the assistance of Boris Yeltsin’s untimely and unexpected retirement on December 31, 1999 – the Acting President of Russia. And then, one would think, he’s just been the cleverest politician in all of Russia. Yeah, yeah – Putin’s Wikipedia page touches upon Putin’s corruption – as a possibility. But, it’s buried deep in the article when the truth is, it should be the headline.
If one went by the stone cold reality of who and what Putin is, you’d headline it the way the Guardian did with “Putin, a criminal and incompetent president, is an enemy of his own people” or Politico did with “Vladimir Putin, war criminal” or Foreign Policy magazine did with “Putin’s Imperial Palaces Are a Manchild’s Dream.” It’s this simple: Putin is nominally a “head of state”; what he really is is a criminal running a criminal enterprise with a government at his disposal. We know he’s got Bond Villain bona fides as a murderer of innocents because of what he did in Chechnya and Syria.
Let’s bore in on Syria a little. Let’s understand what Syria is and isn’t. And let’s view Syria not from our point of view, but from Putin’s and from Assad’s. Let’s employ a little of what a Russian like Putin would call “realpolitik”. Never mind high ideals or visions of a better tomorrow for all. Realpolitik is based entirely on practical and material factors rather than on theoretical or ethical objectives”. Russia views other countries’ sovereignties the way a wolf views a live chicken. Putin doesn’t see Syria, for instance, as a “country” with its own government, he sees Syria as “Russia-South”. He’s got army bases there now… air force bases… a warm water port on the Mediterranean FFS!
It’s much easier for Putin to project power from where Syria touches the Mediterranean than it is from the North Sea or the Black Sea. Does Putin really worry about Syria’s military or its leader Assad telling him what to do? Surely, you’re joking. Nothing happens in Syria that doesn’t get Putin’s full endorsement FIRST. If Assad bombs his own people with poison gas? Not only has Putin signed off on it, he probably supplied the gas.
If we don’t factor Russia’s history into who and what Putin is and what he’s about then we’ll never get a real fix on Putin. Putin himself is a thug – by training and by personality.
He’s an intelligence officer. He understands how to work in the shadows. How to manipulate the shadows so as to keep one’s opponents forever off balance and uncertain. He understands corruption – both as a personal aspiration and as a tool he can use to achieve those aspirations. How much kompromat do ya suppose Putin has on Donald Trump? Our news media, to this day, thinks the Steele Dossier is all about one act of sexual bizarreness involving Trump, Russian hookers, lots of urine and a bed the Obamas slept in in Moscow. There’s nothing illegal about Trump being pervy in the company of consenting adults. Considering all the other sexual crimes Trump has committed, whatever happened in that Moscow hotel room is mild.
And it’s not what really worries Trump about the Steele Dossier’s most alarming (and compelling) inferences – that Trump is and was the entire time he was in the White House – a knowing asset of Russian intelligence. While it’s important that Trump is a sexual deviant, it’s more important that he’s a traitor.
And, it’s not even remotely debatable: Trump is, above all, a traitor. And, while Trump has made himself a traitor in multiple ways with multiple foreign leaders, the person who first escorted Trump across that Rubicon was Putin. The entire Republican Party leadership knew that Putin had compromised Trump – made him a full on national security threat (should he win the presidency). “There’s two people I think Putin pays – Rohrbacher and Trump – swear to God!” is how current GOP Leader put it back then.
Let’s be crystal clear: the instant that happened on June 25, 2016 – a month before the GOP nominated Trump – the entire Republican Party compromised THEMSELVES. They opened themselves up to as much Russian blackmail and kompromat as Trump was compromised by. The instant you even suspect someone’s a traitor? You are OBLIGATED by the law to DO something. The GOP knew in that moment that what they were doing wasn’t just bad, it was flat out ILLEGAL. And so illegal that were they to be caught, prosecuted and punished for their acts, they still could end up hanging for their crimes since treason is a capital offense.
Take this to the bank: But for Russia, Donald Trump would NEVER have been president. He’d never even have run for office; no one would have had his back and cowards like Trump need someone at their back. But for Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan doing the completely unexpected in 2016 – flipping to Trump by a combined 77,000 votes – in the face of Paul Manafort handing oligarch, Putin pal and Russian military intel officer Oleg Deripaska the proprietary polling data for those states (an illegal act unto itself!) that may well have swung them to Trump. Trump and the GOP spent the entire Trump presidency denying what they’d done while obstructing all attempts to get at justice.
This has always been about treason and covering it up. To Putin, it’s always been about scoring the biggest possible intelligence victory with the longest possible ripple effects for the least amount of bucks. He put Trump into the White House and kept him there for as long as he could. Putin used the Trump years very advantageously – his asset in the White House aside. For a chaos agent like Putin, specifics about a thing matter less than the fact of its being. Lies spread far, far easier than the truth ever does.
We have to remember – Putin’s hold on Trump is the exact same as Trump’s hold on the GOP. This circle is vicious as hell and getting more vicious. Putin is a Bond Villain on steroids and Viagra. He’s a criminal who pulled off the biggest intelligence coup of all time: without firing a shot and without spending a ton of dough, Putin put HIS guy in the White House, took over the entire Republican Party and now has the United States teetering on the brink of destruction.
Or, as Putin likes to think of us, if he can have his way, like “The Godfather’s” Luca Brasi, America will sleep with the fishes.