What Does Trump Owe Putin?
Since Trump’s unexpected victory in 2016 and the revelation of Russian meddling in the election to favor Trump by American intelligence agencies, there has been speculation about why Putin wanted Trump as the American president and why Trump has been so subservient to him. There was a belief in some quarters that Putin had kompromat- compromising information about Trump that would embarrass him or reveal some unethical or criminal activity committed by him. There was a thought that the Russians had photographs of Trump cavorting with prostitutes in Moscow. A pee tape was also supposed to be in Russian hands showing Trump with prostitutes performing “golden showers”- urinating on each other or the bed. This purportedly took place in the bed where Obama slept when he visited Moscow. However, there has been little talk of Russian kompromat recently and the pee tape or other evidence has never surfaced.
Another consideration is that Trump’s businesses had been financed by Russian oligarchs, possibly in violation of United States sanctions against these Russians. Thus, the Trump Organization may have done something illegal in addition to owing the Russians a great deal of money. But no definitive confirmation of financial links between Trump and the Russians has yet been shown. That Trump did have ambitions of building a spectacular hotel in Moscow was generally known though nothing has ever come of that. The Mueller report did note considerable interactions between the Trump team and the Russians, but could not definitely say there was a conspiracy between them.
There is little question however, that Putin has Trump in a subservient position. Trump publically rejected his own intelligence agencies’ information on Russian meddling in the 2016 election and said that he trusted Putin’s claims that the Russians had not interfered. His meeting with Putin alone in Helsinki without any American officials present also suggests that Trump and Putin had some unknown connection that Trump did not want to be revealed to the world.
Recent revelations about the extent of Russian interference in the 2016 election to aid Trump may be what Trump owes Putin. With only 74,000 votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin providing the margin for Trump’s Electoral College victory, it may be that Russian actions with trolls and on social media were responsible for Trump winning the presidency. As more data becomes public, it is evident that Russian interference in the election was much more extensive than initially believed. With bots and the use of social media, Russian propaganda was inserted into the election to aid Trump in any way possible. Though Mueller found no conspiracy between Trump and the Russians it is almost beside the point if the Russians actively worked on Trump’s behalf.
Anti- Hillary messages were utilized that seemed to be originating from Americans but actually came from Russian trolls. Pro-Trump propaganda was also spread over the internet by Russians who assumed that many naïve Americans would accept what was really fake news. And these messages were believed by many voters who retweeted them on Twitter or put them up on Facebook. Racist and white supremacist content was also utilized to support Trump and sew chaos that seemed to be created by Americans but were actually fabricated by Russians.
So Trump may owe his presidential victory to Putin’s directives to Russian intelligence agencies to do what they could to help Trump win. And their interference may have been enough to put Trump over the top in critical states. (Those who are considering impeachment should remember that Trump may have been put into office because of foreign intervention that convinced Americans to vote for him.) Was Trump legitimately elected president or was he installed by Russia?
As payback to Putin, Trump drew back American forces in Syria to allow the Russians and their Syrian allies to triumph, using barrel bombs and chemical weapons to increase the death count. Trump also put NATO into disarray with his demands about defense spending and comments about the alliance being obsolete. In fact he chastised virtually every American ally for one thing or another, including Canada and Mexico, our neighbors and most important economic partners. He did not object strongly to Russia’s takeover of the Crimea. And he delayed Congressional sanctions against Russia from being put into effect. He also eschewed America’s global leadership, placing it in a semi-isolationist mode. Showing his admiration for Putin and Russia, he made it respectable not to consider them adversaries. And he lauded autocrats of all sorts, worldwide.
The question remains what is it that Trump owes Putin. Is he a Putin puppet following orders from Moscow or a free and independent president who is just acting foolishly? Seems suspicious, but at this time we can only speculate. Unfortunately, Trump has not led a concerted effort by American intelligence to keep Russian hands off the 2020 election. Why should he when Putin’s assistance may have put him in the White House.