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The Putin plan is to destroy America. Trump is helping him.


If Putin’s strategic plan is to destabilize America so severely that we’re forced, or choose, to drop out of international affairs, leaving the field clear for Russia to dominate, it’s because he—Putin—knows that’s exactly what happened to Russia following their two 1917 Revolutions.

Russia had been a Great Power in Europe. Along with Germany, Austria-Hungary, France, Spain, the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain (maybe Italy, too), the Russian Empire of the Tzars had helped determine the balance of power on the Continent for centuries. But that all ended when the imperial government fell (March 1917) and the Bolsheviks (Communists) took power (November 1917).

Once that occurred, Russia turned inward, to resolve her own severe internal affairs. For a generation, she simply ceased to be a factor, not only in Europe, but internationally. The Revolutions that brought her to such sudden weakness were not planned by her “frenemies” in the West; but they might as well have been, so effective were they in eliminating Russia from European involvement. It can even be argued that Russia’s disappearance from the European scene contributed to the rise of the Nazis and hence to the catastrophe of World War II.

The conventional wisdom in America, for the last several years, is that Russia’s meddling in our 2016 election was simply the visible tip of the iceberg—the most flamboyant example of Putin’s secret campaign to sow divisions in America to such an extent that our institutions crack and eventually crumble. Russia has always resented the West as being arrogant plutocrats, and ever since the Cold War, in Russian eyes America has represented the apex of this plutocratic monolith. Russia, stymied on every side, has perceived American meddling as the reason why she had not been permitted to again rise to the level of a Great Power after World War II, in which Russia contributed more to victory than any other country. Instead, Russians since 1947 saw America become the world’s strongest, richest and most influential country, while she herself flagged economically, diplomatically and militarily. There could be only one explanation for this disaster: America.

Putin, the former intelligence chief, saw this clearly: if Russia was to resume her rightful place in world importance, America would have to be deprived of hers, in the zero-sum game of global politics. This explains the interference in our social media; it explains why Russian trolls were able to identify the fault lines in American culture and politics to exploit them and cause the divisions we now experience. Whether or not Trump was involved, consciously or as an unwitting agent, becomes almost irrelevant. America is cracking up, coming unglued, thereby proving that Putin was right, not only in his analysis but in actual practice.

We see evidence for this all around us, and not only in terms of our domestic infighting. American withdrawal from the Paris Climate agreement, American quarrels with allies from Canada and Australia to France and Great Britain, the threat of leaving NATO, the pullout from Syria and, possibly, Afghanistan, Trump’s trade and tariff wars, the “Wall” fight. All these are indicative of a new era of American isolationism, a trend which, if allowed to ripen, would create a vacuum at the heart of international activities, a void Russia would love to fill. An isolated, weakened America would not solve all of Russia’s current problems (including an under-educated workforce, shortened life spans, a faltering economy and a brain drain abroad), but it would represent a major strategic success in Putin’s long range plan to reassert Russian influence in global affairs.

Should the ordinary American care? Certainly the 30 percent who constitute Trump’s most loyal base do not. Even assuming they’re aware of the stakes (an assumption that may be overly generous), they may well feel that an isolated America would benefit them. Why waste all that money on foreign aid (which they believe amounts to far more that it actually does)? Why send American youth off to foreign wars, to die because of quarrels between people about whom we neither know nor care? Why allow World Government to tell America what to do? Besides (goes the thinking in Trump Land), Russia might not be so bad. After all, the Russians are white, Christian and conservative; they don’t like gay people any more than Trump supporters do. And everybody knows that Communism, as it’s commonly understood, disappeared long ago, and that Russia is now as capitalist (or plutocratic) as America. So Russia is nothing for American conservatives to fear.

And the rest of us, the 70% who are not Trumpists? It’s safe to say we’re confused by all the twists and turns. It’s also safe to say that confusion is exactly the state of mind Putin wants us to be in. A confused nation is a muddled, perfunctory nation; such a nation cannot make up its mind, or wastes precious time on stupid debates about what to do. “While the cat’s away, the mice will play” goes the old saying. America, the cat, is in the corner, placidly licking its paws, unaware that the mice are all around, sharpening their claws.

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe the Trumpists are onto something. America’s involvement in world affairs since 1947 seems to have reached a tipping point: if it helped to make us the richest country in the world for two generations, it now seems a pointless exercise in futility and danger. Maybe isolationism would be better for us, at least for a generation—to try it out and see how it does.

Yet I just can’t bring myself to that conclusion. I can’t help but think that America needs the rest of the world, and that they need us. I can’t help but doubt that a weakened America would result in anything good happening here. I can’t help but think that if Putin succeeds in stirring up our divisions to the point where we do break, it will be bad news. And I can’t help but think that Putin really does have something on Trump, who, darkly and evilly, is helping him destabilize America.

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