Focus on the News: Ukraine, Russia, & Why Putin’s Kremlin Loves Donald Trump So Much

Hi, Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon here in Lithia, Florida, on Tuesday, February 22, 2022. It is a sultry, subtropical winter day in the Tampa Bay area. Currently, the temperature is 80˚F (27˚C) under partly sunny skies. With humidity at 62% and the wind blowing from the east-southeast at 12 MPH (20 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 79˚F (26˚C). Today’s forecast calls for mostly sunny skies and a high of 88˚F (31˚C). Tonight, skies will be partly cloudy. The low will be 67˚F (19˚C).

Today I woke to the – unsurprising – news that Russia sent troops, tanks and other military hardware (helicopters, artillery, and logistical support) into two areas in Ukraine that have “majority Russian” inhabitants and have – encouraged by the Kremlin – declared independence from the Ukrainian government. These regions – Donetsk and Luhansk – are in the east of Ukraine, an independent nation that was once part of the Soviet Union. Before that, Ukraine – which was often referred to as “the Ukraine” in the West – was part of the deposed Russian Empire.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Yesterday, the world learned that Vladimir Putin and the Russian government recognized the “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent nations, and that the Defense Ministry was authorized to send “peacekeepers” to protect the new “countries.”  Putin also gave a rambling speech to justify his government’s actions by citing Russia’s long-running relationship with Kyiv (Kiev) and Ukraine’s historical significance as the “cradle of Russian civilization.”

Like Saddam Hussein’s claims in August of 1990 that Kuwait was really part of Iraq’s Basra province or Adolf Hitler’s equally bogus story that Poland had attacked Germany on the night of August 31, 1939, Putin’s claims are false. They are, at best, fabrications intended more for internal propaganda in Russia than they are for Western audiences, just like the Kremlin’s lies that it is not behind the separatists in the two contested regions.

According to an article by the respected Thomson Reuters news agency that was posted in the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) website:

Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions — collectively known as the Donbas — broke away from Ukrainian government control in 2014 and proclaimed themselves independent “people’s republics,” until now unrecognized.

Since then, Ukraine says about 15,000 people have been killed in fighting.

Russia denies being a party to the conflict but has backed the separatists in numerous ways — including through covert military support, financial aid, supplies of COVID-19 vaccines and issuing at least 800,000 Russian passports to residents.

Moscow has always denied it is planning to invade Ukraine. However, recognition of the rebel regions came as more than 150,000 Russian troops have surrounded Ukraine from three sides in what the United States and its allies saw as a sign of an imminent invasion. 

It’s obvious – painfully so – that Vladimir Putin is counting on the reluctance of the West – especially the NATO alliance and a politically divided United States – to go to war over the sovereignty of a non-NATO country in Eastern Europe. After all, this is the same Putin regime that wrested the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine eight years ago, claiming that Russian troops had not invaded that part of Ukraine and that its mostly-Russian population merely wanted to be reunified with Russia after a 60-year separation.

(Here’s a bit of historical context. In 1954, a year after Joseph Stalin’s death, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, a native of Russia but who had once been the Communist Party ruler of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and the Presidium of the CPSU transferred the Crimean Oblast from Russia to Ukraine, which, of course, was then a part of the Soviet Union. Be that as it may, when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and Ukraine became an independent country, its 1991 borders – including the Crimean peninsula’s inclusion to its territory – were internationally recognized. The United States and most of the world do not recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.)

Putin’s moves should not be surprising. His desires to maintain Russian hegemony over the territories that were once part of the Soviet Union are so long-standing and known to anyone who watches Eastern Europe or Russia saw this coming many years before the first land grab by Russia in 2014. In his last Jack Ryan novel completed before his death in October of 2013, conservative author and commentator Tom Clancy anticipated Putin’s moves in the plot of Command Authority, which he co-wrote with Mark Greaney.

Russia’s deeply-rooted desire to dominate the former republics of the Soviet Union (especially the Baltic States and Ukraine) is a theme that Clancy expounded upon in Command Authority, as well as Putin’s Machiavellian power plays as Russia’s strongman. Clancy, of course, does not use Putin’s real name – his Russian President is Command Authority’s Valery Volodin, but Putin and his policies and dislike of the West are clearly the inspiration for the character. I have not read the novel in a long time – I only did so once, and that was when Mom was still alive and I was her primary caregiver in Miami – but I do remember that President Jack Ryan and NATO as a whole stood solidly behind the pro-Western Ukrainian government in a crisis fomented by Putin…I mean…Volodin.

The current Russia-Ukraine crisis should also serve as an explanation  – as if any were needed – of why Putin and his regime wanted Donald Trump to win in both 2016 and 2020. I don’t think it’s because Putin likes Trump personally; for all I know, he probably thinks the former President is not a competent leader. He probably has a lot of dirt on Trump’s dealings, not just in the business arena but also with women and underage girls as well. To borrow a term used by Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin to describe Western apologists for the Communist movement, Trump, at best, is a “useful idiot.”

See, I think – based on the Mueller Report and the various bits of news I have digested over the past 10 years – that while Putin does not want to destroy the United States (especially with Russian weapons), he does not mind if the “American empire” is weakened and made impotent so that Russia can once again be a superpower, feared and respected. He also – as a former KGB agent – does not like NATO and its “open door” policy for countries that wish to join the Alliance. Like many Russians of his generation, as well as his former career as a professional intelligence officer in the Soviet Union, Putin believes that NATO will someday invade Russia and destroy its sovereignty.  

As such, Putin’s goals are clear, especially where Donald Trump is concerned. He wants to bully Ukraine into submitting to Moscow’s wishes, which include the demand that Kyiv never applies for NATO membership, and that NATO ceases its “open door” admissions policy. These goals are easier to achieve, in Putin’s estimation, if:

  • The United States is led by a President and a political party – in this case, the Republican Party – that are friendly to the Kremlin
  • The United States is distracted by deep and intractable political, socio-cultural, and regional divisions
  • The United States becomes more isolationist and skeptical of multinational organizations and military alliances
  • The West as a whole becomes less resolute, less resilient, if the most powerful nation in the Western world is navel gazing and on the verge of its own civil war

Even if we accept Trump’s claims that all he wants is to “make America great again” and focus on a 1930s-like “America First” rebirth of the isolationist movement because he genuinely loves the U.S., he was (and would be again) the weakest, most incompetent person to rise to the Presidency. He often expressed anti-NATO, Russia-friendly sentiments that Putin himself probably smiled at, including:

On July 11, 2018, CNN reporter Jeremy Diamond wrote:

Brussels CNN — 

President Donald Trump came out brawling in his first public comments here at the outset of NATO’s annual summit, accusing a close US ally of being “a captive of Russia,” calling members of the alliance “delinquent” in their defense spending and insisting they increase it “immediately.”

Trump’s provocative comments on Wednesday morning – particularly those aimed at Germany – set the tone for the first day of NATO’s annual summit, amplifying the sense of unease among the United States’ closest European allies and giving Trump a chance to once again shine a spotlight on uneven burden-sharing among the alliance’s members.

The invectives detracted from the summit’s goal of projecting unity in the face of Russian aggression, even as Trump and NATO leaders jointly agreed to bolster their defense and deterrence capabilities to head off Russian threats. Instead, Trump fueled a narrative of discord within the alliance, just days before he heads to Helsinki to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Helsinki summit prepares to offer another jarring international affairs contrast and Trump has already suggested he is most looking forward to his meeting with Putin during his European swing.

“I have NATO, I have the UK, which is in somewhat turmoil, and I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think? Who would think?” Trump said on Tuesday as he left the White House.

Putin never had a better “tool” than Donald Trump when he was President.

And, whether they realize it or not, Republicans who still support Trump – whether they are ordinary citizens who want him back to “save America from the evil socialist agenda of the Democrats” or GOP leaders at the federal, state, and local levels – are also Putin’s best allies.

The Republican Party, under the leadership – for lack of a better term – of Donald Trump, has become, in effect, the Party of Putin.

Don’t believe me? Just look at the current situation in Ukraine.  

Sources:

Russia has recognized 2 breakaway regions of Ukraine. Here’s why that matters, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, February 22, 2022

Trump opens NATO summit with blistering criticism of Germany, labels allies ‘delinquent’ – CNN, July 11, 2018

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

11 thoughts on “Focus on the News: Ukraine, Russia, & Why Putin’s Kremlin Loves Donald Trump So Much

      1. How to understand Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine? To what does this unilateral action compare? Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974… A more ancient act of imperialism, the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland took place during the late 12th century.

        The latter example not now nearly as pertinent as the former. The issue at stake, centers not upon Russian interests to keep the Ukraine out of joining NATO, but rather the disgrace of UN hypocrisy and its silence to denounce and condemn this latest invasion by countries who dream, think France, that they should merit the status as a ‘Great Power’ in Europe.

        The UN repeats and perpetuates this continuous drip-cowardice; the UN condemns repeatedly ad infinitum the Jewish State of Israel. Yet when China pulls shtik with the Uyghurs of Xinjiang, likewise comparable to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, UN piety immediately loses its religion. Therefore, it seems to me that Nations should respond to UN hypocrisy by withdrawing membership from this House of Cards club.

        The Russia\China axis thrived during the Stalin\Mao era. China faces a similar fuel crisis as did Japan during WWII. Formosa and the Japanese Islands make control of the ocean quite formidable. Therefore China would very much like to conquer Taiwan. For China to fight and win a war that would most probably trigger multi-national involvement, it requires a secure ally which can supply it with oil and gas. Russia fits that need to a tee. Mao rejected Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin’s war crimes. That’s when Sino–Russian relations turns south.

        Russia, even after the fall of the USSR, remains the odd man out among Nato dominated Western European governments. The West, currently jabbering about sanctions blah blah. The Art of War centers upon crippling the supply lines of the enemy. A failure which defines the defeat of US imperialist invasions in both Vietnam and Afghanistan. Those supply lines represent the underbelly of the beast. Quite naturally all belligerent nations understand this critical weakness. A Sino-Russian alliance make tremendous good strategic sense for a new Cold War Russia.

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  1. Sharp analysis of the Ukraine situation! The right’s pivot to slavishly supporting Putin remains curious but not surprising. I remember in 2015 when I started reading about the alt-right, they were so in love with Putin. But then there was Romney in 2012 running as very anti-Putin, so I guess what remains of the center-right is in a more Cold War mindset. I often wonder where Clancy would be on 45, he was always such a right winger, but very geopolitical in his outlook. I don’t see him as an isolationist, but 45 seduced so many . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Clancy was a conservative, and many of his personal views were reflected in Jack Ryan’s philosophy. I seriously, seriously, seriously doubt that either Clancy or Ryan would ever be pro-Trump or isolationist, given that the author was pro-NATO, pro-U.S./UK alliance. And his portrayal of Valentin Volodin (i,e. Putin in all but name) was hardly flattering.

      I think that our alt-right has joined forces with Russia’s own fascist groups because they’re both white supremacist/nationalistic groups who don’t mind authoritarianism. That’s why the GOP in Congress fought so hard against the Mueller probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections….they knew it was true, and their party benefitted from it.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Alex, I think your analysis of the situation in Ukraine is spot on. Unfortunately you are also right about what you say about Trump. It is sickening. I remember when Mitt Romney said what he said about Russia. So many were laughing about it but I thought he was spot on. I have an anecdote from my teenage years that kind of relates to this. When I was in high school I was part of a church related delegation to the Soviet Union. Leonid Brezhnev and Andropov was in charge at the time. We tried to bring in religious literature and printing press materials for the underground movement. We were caught at the Finland Station in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). We were held at gunpoint , searched and interrogated for several hours. The soldiers had cool hats with red stars but it was otherwise not a great experience. Anyway, the KGB officer in charge of foreigners arriving in Leningrad at the time was Vladimir Putin.

    Liked by 1 person

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