By Mary Grace Richardson, Co-editor
Like most things with Trump, it started with a tweet. In June 2013 he asked his Twitter followers, “Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow – if so, will he become my new best friend?”
Naturally, because Putin knows how to play the game, he took a little while to get back to Trump — about two years. When he did, Putin was full of praise for Trump, describing him as “outstanding and talented” and as an “absolute front-runner” in the election. And so the courtship began.
But a lot has changed since then, and both men have received mixed signals from each other. To make it easier to understand, here are the four signs that you’re supposed to be the leader of the free world but might be in a bad relationship:
You Make Excuses for Him
Who hasn’t overlooked red flags when they’ve started getting to know someone? Sometimes it’s easier to make excuses than to face the truth that your friend takes people out on the DL. Though Putin’s brutal tactics have been pointed out to Trump, he’s ready to endorse the Kremlin leader against naysayers. In 2015, MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough asked Trump whether he’s concerned Putin “is also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries.”
Wearing rose-tinted glasses, Trump defended Putin’s honor saying, “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country.”
To get to the heart of the issue (and figure out if he should change professions) Scarborough followed up: “But again — he kills journalists that don’t agree with him.”
“I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe, so, you know,” Trump justified. “There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on. A lot of stupidity. And that’s the way it is…”
While a healthy relationship requires acceptance, it also requires you to condemn people well-versed in “disappearing” their enemies. This could have been a moment for Trump to reflect on his own personal values as a leader, but instead, he reiterated the same sentiment last week, saying to Fox News Bill O’Reilly that he respected his Russian counterpart.
Having not realized Trump’s apathy to these matters, O’Reilly countered, “But he’s a killer.”
“There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?” Trump responded without hesitation.
This is usually a good time to hesitate, but as they say, love is blind.
He Breaks His Promises
Despite the mutual admiration, Putin just isn’t in a place in his life where he can make Trump’s priorities his own. He made this most obvious when he secretly deployed a new cruise missile the other day, knowing full well that it defied the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with the United States — on Valentine’s Day no less! The INF, signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, helped end the Cold War and banned intermediate-range missiles on land.
But with any relationship, there are two sides to the story. Trump has definitely sent mixed messages, saying one day that the United States should “strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,” but then also talking about coming to a new agreement with Russia that would reduce arms “very substantially.” Talk about an emotional rollercoaster.
He Disses Your Friends
This one’s a classic bad cycle that we’ve all heard before. One person turns another against his close friends, convinces him to cut them off, and then makes the person completely dependent on him. This isn’t usually on a global stage, however, and wouldn’t normally result in upending the world order.
In several interviews Trump has talked about lifting sanctions with Russia that were established in 2014 after Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine. Then, in Trump’s personal, uninfluenced opinion that happens to match very well with Putin’s ideal geopolitical vision, Trump also said he considers NATO to be completely “obsolete.”
The Kremlin echoed these same thoughts. A government spokesperson released a statement last month saying, “NATO is, indeed, a vestige [of the past]… Considering that [the organization] is focused on confrontation and its entire structure is devoted to the ideals of confrontation, then, of course, this can hardly be called a modern structure meeting the ideas of stability, sustainable development, and security.”
Though Trump’s ideas seem to go along with the Russian government’s long-sought goal to weaken Western military alliances and disperse EU power, we of course can’t jump to conclusions. If your new friend can’t hang with your pals that go back 68 years, though, it’s something to consider. Let’s just not take shots at German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the meantime.
… And Might be Trying to Kill Them
As we all know, a lot goes into a relationship: trust, respect, patience. Weaponizing the others’ enemies doesn’t usually make it on the list. Not to get trapped in the rumor mill, but top U.S. national security leaders reported this week that Russia’s equipping anti-U.S. insurgents in Afghanistan who have close ties to other terrorist organizations.
Friendship is without retaliation or grudge, though this one doesn’t seem to be. The irony can’t be lost that in the 1980s CIA officers supplied weapons to anti-Soviet rebels who were fighting the then-Soviet backed government and troops. And here we are today: 28 years after Operation Cyclone and 15 years after America’s invasion of Afghanistan, Russia’s now aiding the Taliban against a fragile American-backed government.
Maybe it’s karma. Or maybe it’s just a bad match.