Does anybody know what the house pour is at the Kremlin these days? Stolichnaya? Maybe Absolut Diktator? Whatever it is, it’s certain to be flowing freely there right now.
This last week saw the realization of some of Putin’s fondest dreams, all through the tireless efforts of his go-to “useful idiot,” Donald Trump. Imagine Vlad’s delight when he heard about Trump’s tantrum aimed at his fellow G-7 leaders. Unfair trade practices against the U.S.! Possible trade wars! National security issues involving Canada! (They don’t call them Mounties for nothing—they’re mounting an invasion!) How could the resulting discord not be at least as heartwarming for Putin as a double shot of Stoly, or a reading from his favorite book, “Laugh Lines from Classic KGB Talent Shows”?
Please note the genius of Trump’s tirade. Rather than opting first for a take-down of politically touchy China, which is the real 800-pound panda in our trade imbalance, he instead chooses to bash our allies in the noisiest possible way. It’s right out of the playbook of any self-respecting bully: reserving your serious punches for easier prey like Trudeau, Macron, and Merkel. Maximal opportunities for the kind of chest-beating he so enjoys–and at minimal cost!
This turn of events is like heaven for Putin, a guy who would like nothing more than to see the Euro-zone come crashing down like Humpty-Dumpty, or better, like the Berlin wall in 1989, when he was camped out in East Berlin’s KGB offices, trying to decide which documents to shred and how to save his best porn. (Note: this last bit is apocryphal, but too much fun to leave out.)
So what did it take to move him from just a buoyant good mood to the equivalent of shirtless Cossack dancing? Certainly not his masterfully rigged “re-election,” which is now solidly in the rear view mirror. Not the poisoning of a Russian ex-intelligence agent in England on March 4th of this year, either, though I’m sure he got a kick out of that. No, the real excitement was once again supplied by his geo-political bum boy, Trump.
Apparently not satisfied to have lobbed a diplomatic grenade into the group of America’s longtime allies, Trump went on to suggest that, after all, Russia should be readmitted to the group. Of course. Penalize Western democracies and snuggle up to a dictator. An obvious, necessary change, though in suggesting it he did manage to breeze past everything Putin did to get himself booted out of the group in 2014. “Something that happened a while ago” was his short description of Russia’s invasion of Crimea and its undeclared war on Ukraine, putting these in the same broad category that includes the sinking of the Bismarck and the invention of the Snuggie.
However we might feel about Vlad, when we stand back to observe the international scene in its wider spectacle we are obliged, as we so often have been recently, to grudgingly acknowledge his breathtaking accomplishments. In doing so, however, we certainly don’t want to ignore Trump’s contributions to his grand scheme. The very least Putin could do is buy the American president a drink. I hear Diet Coke is really cheap, wherever in the world you are. And judging by his words, it seems to be getting Trump consistently high, even without adding a shot of Stoly.