Putin’s Quid Pro Quo

David Atkins has written a terribly bleak but important piece at Washington Monthly called Why Even the Furthest Left Should Care About the Trump-Russia Conspiracy. Atkins has been warning of a “global conservative religious fundamentalist white supremacist movement” gaining ground in Europe and the U.S., and that Vladimir Putin’s Russia is its lodestar. And at this point it’s beyond doubt that Russia actively helped Donald Trump’s campaign.

We know that Vladimir Putin personally ordered historically unprecedented criminal theft of material from the Democratic Party to assist Donald Trump. We mostly know why he did it: to relieve sanctions on his mafia cronies, to advance his fossil-fuels based economy, and to weaken the structural international supports of his greatest geopolitical rival. We also have more than an inkling of the leverage he possessed over Donald Trump: regardless of whether Trump fears the revelation of even more lurid kompromat, we already know that Trump was hoping for a big real estate deal in Moscow, and that Trump’s real estate holdings and his lone lender, Deutsche Bank, both have alarming connections to Russian oligarchs and money laundering.

What we don’t yet know is what Trump offered the Russians in return. This and only this is the fig leaf that still allows Republicans to claim there is “no collusion.”

But we have a clue that Russia is getting something it wants — the breakup of the Atlantic alliance. See Rift Between Trump and Europe Is Now Open and Angry in the New York Times.

The Europeans no longer believe that Washington will change, not when Mr. Trump sees traditional allies as economic rivals and leadership as diktat. His distaste for multilateralism and international cooperation is a challenge to the very heart of what Europe is and needs to be in order to have an impact in the world.

But beyond the Trump administration, an increasing number of Europeans say they believe that relations with the United States will never be the same again.

Karl Kaiser, a longtime analyst of German-American relations, said, “Two years of Mr. Trump, and a majority of French and Germans now trust Russia and China more than the United States.”

This is seriously bad stuff. Going back to Atkins:

This matters because Russia’s actions to install Trump as president have advanced the interests of fossil fuel barons, making it much harder to deal with climate change in a timely fashion. It matters because, by putting Trump in office, Vladimir Putin enabled Republicans to pass an enormous tax cut for the wealthy and for corporations, thereby making it much more difficult for progressives to tackle badly pressing problems like infrastructure, monopoly power, and inequality. It matters because Russia’s successes in propping up Assad and pushing Brexit have made it much, much harder for internationalists and anti-war progressives to advocate for a peaceful multilateralism that benefits everyone around the globe.

That’s why it’s so critical to keep a spotlight on Trump and Russia. This isn’t just for immediate partisan gain. If the alliance between conservative Russian fossil-fuel kleptocrats and the global white supremacist movement is not exposed, broken, and destroyed, then the progressive policy agenda is in deep trouble. None of the laws that Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez, or Bernie Sanders will push for will have any chance of passage as long as there remains an unbroken alliance between the real power in the Republican Party and the Russian mafia state’s hacker collectives.

One wonders how deep the rot goes in the Republican Party.  In his “60 Minutes” interview, to air tonight, Andrew McCabe said he briefly discussed invoking the 25th Amendment with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Miz Lindsey Graham went into a pearl-clutching frenzy on Face the Nation this morning, vowing to hold hearings and punish whoever was responsible for doing something that obviously needs to be done. No rational person can possibly believe Trump is capable of carrying out the duties of his office. Several columnists mentioned the 25th Amendment after Trump’s bizarre Rose Garden national emergency announcement a couple of days ago.  (See, for example, Dana Milbank and Charles Pierce.)

So the nation watches helplessly as Trump destroys democracy at home and international relations everywhere else, because our national government is too corrupted and compromised to take the clear and necessary steps to remove a dysfunctional president from office.

Stuff to Read:

Timothy O’Brien, In Trump’s World, He Never Loses

Anne Applebaum, An off-key Pence sings from the Trump hymnal to a stony European reception

Reuters, Japan’s PM nominated Trump for Nobel Peace Prize on U.S. request: Asahi