Sunday, July 30, 2017
Is Trump's usefulness finished?
Is Cheeto Mussolini no longer of any use to Putin? With the presence of his agents in the highest offices of the land, how much more use can a blustering, bullying failure be?
Your geopolitical nemesis is suffering a political meltdown and says you’re partly to blame. Angry legislators have slapped you with new sanctions, which their president says he will sign. What’s a resurgent autocracy to do?No doubt Putin will tap dance on Donny's head in the months ahead. Without a functioning State Dept. and agents inside and outside of government who is there to stop him? Some golf playing old moron who can't repeal Obamacare with majorities in both Houses of Congress?
In Moscow, it’s time for some game theory.
Regardless of whether the Kremlin believes its own denials of interfering in the 2016 elections, there is one undeniable truth: Russia is now Washington’s greatest political foe. Understanding that President Trump is “tied hand and foot,” as one foreign policy hawk here put it, Moscow is weighing options for retaliation.
After a dalliance on the Trump train, Russia is once again channeling the ruthless realism that drives its political id, and embracing its role as antihero.
“Okay, you think we’re bad guys, we’re going to be bad guys, and we’ll see whether you like it or not,” said Konstantin Eggert, a television political commentator, describing the Kremlin thinking.
Russia’s decision on Friday to expel dozens, perhaps hundreds, of American diplomats and other embassy staff marks the first salvo in retaliation to American sanctions that promises to be unpredictable and fraught with emotion. It is built on the frustrations of a Russian leader who perhaps thought that a Trump presidency could change everything, and then watched those hopes dissolve in scandal and recriminations.
The Russian establishment has been angry with the West before but rarely so filled with contempt. It is far worse than several years ago, when tensions rose to fever pitch over a pro-Western revolution in neighboring Ukraine, sold on Russian television as a nationalist uprising with echoes of fascism.
“No one was scared by the first  sanctions, it was almost fun,” said Andrei Kolesnikov, a veteran member of Vladimir Putin’s press pool, who co-wrote a 2000 book of interviews with the Russian president and traveled with him to Finland recently. “Now there’s a sense among Russian officials that everything is very serious. And they’re all looking at Vladimir Putin to see what to do.”
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