Thursday, February 23, 2017

I'm No Puppet, You're the Puppet

This piece is in Vox this morning.

A Russian newspaper editor explains how Putin made Trump his puppet.

On the one hand, it's encouraging that this editor doesn't believe the conspiracy surrounding the dossier. That's good news. On the other hand, this could be even worse. Here's the important segment of the interview. Fischman is the Russian and Illing is the Vox reporter...

Mikhail Fishman
The vision of Trump is basically shaped by the Kremlin and their propaganda machine — that's what they do. During the election campaign, Trump was depicted not as an underdog but as an honest representative of the American people who was being mistreated by the establishment elites and other evil forces in Washington.

Sean Illing
The Kremlin knew that to be bullshit, right? This was pure propaganda, not sincere reporting, and it was aimed at damaging Hillary Clinton.

Mikhail Fishman
Of course. All of it was aimed at damaging Hillary Clinton. Putin expected Trump to lose, but the prospect of a Clinton victory terrified him, and he did everything possible to undermine her.

Sean Illing
Why was he so afraid of a Clinton victory?

Mikhail Fishman
Because he knew that would mean an extension of Obama's harsh orientation to Russia, perhaps even more aggressive than Obama. Putin has experienced some difficult years since his 2014 invasion of Crimea, but he didn't expect this level of isolation. He saw — and sees — Trump as an opportunity to change the dynamic.

Sean Illing
A lot of commentators here believe the most generous interpretation of Trump’s fawning orientation to Putin and Russia is that he’s hopelessly na├»ve. Do you buy that?

Mikhail Fishman
That's a good question. Why does he like Putin so much? I think Trump sees Putin as a kind of soulmate. Let's be honest: Trump is not a reflective person. He's quite simple in his thinking, and he's sort of attracted to Putin's brutal forcefulness. If anything, this is what Trump and Putin have in common.

Sean Illing
Has Putin made a puppet of Trump?

Mikhail Fishman
Of course. This is certainly what the Kremlin believes, and they’re acting accordingly. They're quite obviously playing Trump. They consider him a stupid, unstrategic politician. Putin is confident that he can manipulate Trump to his advantage, and he should be.

Sean Illing
In other words, they see in Trump a useful idiot.

Mikhail Fishman
Exactly. The Kremlin is limited in their knowledge about what's going on in Washington, but they see the chaos and the confusion in Trump's administration. They see the clumsiness, the inexperience. Naturally, they're working to exploit that.