Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday praised Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military aggression against Ukraine as fears of war in the region grow. The deluded Russian despot seems set on recreating the Soviet Union and reliving a bygone era.
Trump's fawning statements in response are the latest reminder that America — not too long ago — was under the thumb of a Kremlin fan boy. We’ll address that shortly, but first, here are Trump’s comments from his Tuesday interview on “The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show," an ultraconservative radio talk show:
I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius.’ Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine, of Ukraine, Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful.
The praise didn’t end there.
“So Putin is now saying, ‘It’s independent,’ a large section of Ukraine," Trump continued. "I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s going to go in and be a peacekeeper. That’s the strongest peace force. We could use that on our southern border. That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen."
He then called Putin a “very savvy” person whom he claimed to know “very, very well.”
He's not hacking mainframes and scaling walls to do Russia’s bidding in the dead of night. Instead, he’s flaunting his pro-Russian agency in the open.
Trump’s obsequious praise for Putin is part of a well-known pattern. Even before Russia targeted Black voters with misinformation and hacked Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign in an effort to help Trump win the election, Trump — perhaps you remember — was desperately, longingly and publicly angling to become Putin’s “best friend.”
And that’s to say nothing of Trump’s constant deference to Putin once he took over the White House in 2016. That includes — you know — installing Rex Tillerson, a pro-Russian businessman, as secretary of state; praising Putin’s lack of response to Obama-era sanctions as a “great move” while enabling his lackeys to communicate with Russia through a secret backchannel; repeatedly downplaying U.S. intelligence showing Russia interfered in the 2016 election; publicly excusing violence committed by Putin’s murderous regime; firing James Comey as FBI director over his investigation into Russian election interference; and the list truly goes on.
Taking Trump’s latest pro-Putin comments and his long history of Russophilia into account, it’s remarkable there’s ever been doubt that Trump is a pro-Russian agent — at least in the broad sense. Though Trump may not fit the U.S. intelligence community’s technical definition of an agent, his eagerness to advance Russian interests is palpable.
To be clear: Trump isn’t a secret agent like you see in the movies, a la James Bond or something. He’s not hacking mainframes and scaling walls to do Russia’s bidding in the dead of night. Instead, he’s flaunting his pro-Russian bias in the open. And that open agency for despotism, combined with the hold he has over the Republican Party, is a true threat to American democracy.
In the media, especially, there’s been a reluctance to acknowledge the serious danger Trump’s affinity for Russia — and the Republican Party’s willingness to fall in line — poses to the U.S. Some members of the press have repeatedly downplayed allegations of Trump-Russia collusion, or dismissed the allegations as purely political.
And those doubts have looked all the more ridiculous as Trump has continued — as he did on Tuesday — to be open in his support for the Russian government and its goals.