Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Curious Case of Vladimir Putin

Why is it you get the feeling there is a photograph of Putin hanging in the Oval Office?  Has there ever been a President who lavished so much praise on a contemporary foreign leader, refusing to even engage in criticism of the Russian president?  Trump dodged the question during his Super Bowl interview with Baba O'Reilly, essentially saying we all have blood on our hands.

There is no enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend thing going on here.  If that was the case, Trump would be much more friendly toward Iranian leaders, as they are fighting ISIS too.  No, Trump has genuine admiration for the Russian strongman.  He sees him as a role model for his own administration, hoping to consolidate as much power as he can into the executive branch to carry out Steve Bannon's agenda.

Of course, there's that thing about the dossier on Trump's compromising situation with the Kremlin, which was put together by a former MI6 operative working for the Democratic National Committee.  Most of the allegations have been refuted, but it continues to haunt him as there are well-documented financial ties to Russian investors that the Kremlin can just as easily use as leverage.

Whatever the case, it seems Putin is losing his patience with Trump, as there seems to be no movement on lifting sanctions or pulling NATO troops out of Poland and the Baltic states, which are high on the Kremlin's wish list.  The Kremlin was also irked by Baba's line of questioning.  They would like to see Trump establish some order out of his chaotic start.

In all fairness, Putin got off to a rough start as well.  He had to deal with a sunken sub, terrorist attacks on a theater and school, and explosions in Moscow apartment blocks within his first term of office. All this while dealing with a badly sinking economy.  None of these incidents were handled particularly well, but eventually Vlad got the hang of things and brought some measure of order to the chaos that enveloped Russia at the dawn of the new millennium.

However, His Trumpness couldn't have inherited a more stable situation.  The former president left the White House in order, the economy is growing, and jobs are being created at their highest level in over a decade.  Russia also seems to have ISIS contained in Syria.  The Dow even reacted positively to his election, soaring to the unprecedented height of 20,000.

This is no nation in decline, but rather one enjoying a robust recovery.  All Trump had to do was sit back and enjoy the ride.  Instead, he decided to make his imprint as quickly as possible, issuing a slough of executive orders, none of which included the lifting of Russian sanctions.  What is Vlad to think?

His Trumpness broached the subject, but seems to be deferring to his generals on this, particularly Gen. Mattis, who also thinks NATO is just fine as it is and should maintain its line of defense along the Polish-Baltic States border.  Trump himself gave Ukraine assurances that he would not be lifting Russian sanctions anytime soon.  As a result, Putin is preparing for war.  A rather ominous sign given that Trump based much of his campaign on restoring amicable relations with Russia.

We can only speculate what took place during the much-anticipated phone call with Vladimir Putin.  Trump didn't slam the phone down in anger like he did with the Australian prime minister over accepting 1250 refugees stuck in limbo in the Pacific.  So, one assumes it went reasonably well.  That's certainly what both administrations reported.  So, why did Vlad put his air force on high alert?  Again, we can only speculate.

So far, no direction has emerged from the Trump White House.  He seems to mostly be catering to his conservative base in executive orders aimed at fulfilling campaign promises.  The idea of a new affordable care act has been put indefinitely on hold.  Congress is now talking about "repairing" the existing act rather than tossing it out completely, as they don't seem to have any back-up plan.  Maybe they finally took the time to read it and find out that much of the ACA is based on a Heritage Foundation plan written back in 1989?  Even the name was taken from this old conservative blueprint.

Trump did get another photo opportunity with a big computer tech company, introducing 10,000 new "long-term jobs."  These jobs have been in the pipeline quite a long time.  However, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich graciously credited Trump for them.

But, again, when are we going to see this great Detente between the US and Russia?

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