Trump and Putin: Why so friendly?
As President Trump meets with world leaders over the next week, there’s no doubt which one he likes best, said Roger Cohen in The New York Times. Trump has been dismissing the NATO allies he will meet in Brussels as freeloading parasites who treat Americans like “schmucks,” while saying his subsequent face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki “may be the easiest of them all.” Trump’s ideological sympathies clearly lie with the thuggish Putin’s “bare-chested strongman style.” He has called for Russia to be reinstated into the G-7, and parroted the Kremlin’s justification for its annexation of Crimea. By sneering at the post–World War II Western alliance while embracing a tyrant who meddled in our presidential election, Trump has proven he’s not merely a foreign policy contrarian. “He is an off-the-charts repudiation of everything the United States has stood for since 1945,” including democracy, the rule of law, free trade, and human rights.
Trump’s NATO complaints are legitimate, said Rich Lowry in the New York Post. Germany, the richest country in Europe, only spends 1.2 percent of its GDP on defense, despite NATO members agreeing to contribute at least 2 percent by 2024. If Russia truly is a threat to European security, “it’s not an imposition to ask that Germany act like it.” Informing NATO countries that their “free riding is over” doesn’t make Trump a Putin stooge, said Sumantra Maitra in TheFederalist.com. On the contrary. Trump has taken a harder policy stance toward Russia than President Obama did, sending arms to Ukraine to defend against Russian incursions.
Sorry, but how do you explain Trump’s perverse professions of admiration for Putin? asked Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com. The hold Russia has over Trump may be “worse than we suspect.” Kremlin officials have been cultivating Trump since 1987, when Trump first visited Moscow at the invitation of Soviet officials, who surely surveilled his hotel room. When Trump’s casino businesses went bankrupt, evidence suggests, he got a major infusion of cash from the Russians, and may have engaged in money laundering. The Kremlin has a long history of gathering compromising dirt on prominent foreigners, so it’s not ridiculous to wonder what it has on Trump. If Trump fawns over Putin because he fears what he might reveal, “we are in the midst of a scandal unprecedented in American history, a subversion of the integrity of the presidency.”