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The Closet Russian in Wolf’s Clothing - but may be not quite as you'd think

Comedy gold - or perhaps not even bronze for some, but hey, there's at
least a one in 7 billion chance this might tickle your funny bone.

 16.04.2016 Author: Seth Ferris
Donald Trump Loves Vladimir Putin: What the Hell is Going On?
Column: Politics
Region: USA in the World

4534544The world follows every US Presidential election race because
the outcome affects billions of peoplesâ?? lives. There isnâ??t a country
anywhere untouched by US policy. So it matters a great deal who is in
charge, and what the person is likely to do if elected.

As most Americans are observing with some horror, the Republican
primaries are consistently throwing up the scenario even that partyâ??s
establishment doesnâ??t want. Despite all the party bossesâ?? attempts to
stop him, billionaire businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump has
emerged as the most popular candidate.

At the time of writing Trump had gained the support of around 755
pledged delegates, as opposed to 521 for his nearest rival, Ted Cruz
of Texas. Despite being considered a joke at the beginning of the
campaign, Trump is so far ahead that 90% of the remaining delegates
would have to pledge for Cruz to stop Trump becoming the Republican
presidential candidate.

Trump is scaring people because he is not so much right-wing as from
another planet. He has views on immigrants, the poor, and the
unemployed which would make the most reactionary dictators in history
blush. He also happily accepts being labelled a fascist in a country
with a large and sensitive Jewish population.

Therefore it would be entirely consistent for this man to be
virulently anti-Russian, as Russia has long been synonymous, in
American eyes, with all the things Trump thinks are wrong with the
country.But nothing could be further from the truth. Trump has
expressed great admiration for Vladimir Putin, and pledged to work
with him, as an ally, if he becomes president. Putin in turn has
described Trump as an â??outstanding manâ?? and â??unquestionably talented (
http://2016.presidential-candidates.org/Trump/?on=russia )â??.

The US-Soviet rapprochement under Ronald Reagan, who frequently
referred to the USSR as the â??Evil Empireâ??, seemed amazing at the time.
But it is nowhere near as weird as a US-Russia friendship with Trump
in charge. Wouldnâ??t Trump rather nuke the place to bits and fill
whatâ??s left of it with Mexicans?What on earth is going on?

The Joke That Is All Too Serious

Trump is striking a chord with a significant portion of the US
electorate because only the US could have produced a Donald Trump. The
characteristics of that society have made him what he is, and even his
opponents have to accept that he is a recognisable, albeit unpleasant,
face of their country.

You can often tell what a country is like when you see what provokes a
response there but not elsewhere. For example, in France it is a very
serious offence to write an anonymous letter, even an anodyne or
complimentary one, because people remember the anonymous denunciations
of members of the Resistance to the Nazis. Other countries do not see
what the fuss is about.

In the US there is an attitude towards big business which other
countries never quite get. In most countries businessmen are seen as
boring, or the enemies of the ordinary man. They wear their own
clothes, speak their own language and have concerns which the rest of
the world arenâ??t interested in; the business section of a newspaper is
the one you most often find discarded on a train or bus.

In the US it is different. Becoming a big businessman from humble
origins is the so-called American Dream. Only millionaires can
effectively compete in national politics, not simply because there are
no spending limits but because that is how they gain the necessary
public respect. Business is a glamorous world in the US, and top
businessmen are celebrities in the same way rock stars and actors are
in other countries, because they are what every American is told they
should aspire to be.

Trump was a celebrity long before he started appearing on business
advice programmes, simply because he was a famous businessman. Not for
him the corporate dinners and army of secretaries to protect him from
the public. Only in America could someone like Trump be the subject of
a Comedy Central Celebrity Roast, in which comedians line up to insult
someone the audience know as a household name (

But this celebrity doesnâ??t come with anything else. It isnâ??t earned by
having anything to say, simply by the machinery of American society
itself, as Martin Scorseseâ??s film â??The King of Comedyâ?? cruelly exposed
( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJ2Lc0txkbk ). The last thing
Americans want is for such celebrities to say and do anything
reasonable, which reduces them to the level of mere mortals. They have
to be larger than life to remain celebrities and icons, and Trump is
now working this to the full.

The Republican Party has long argued that a liberal intelligentsia has
imposed alien views on the ordinary American. It is no coincidence
that the outrageous radio â??shock jocksâ?? who go out of their way to be
confrontational are right-wing, not radical left as they would be in
most countries. As Fareed Zakaria has pointed out, Republicans have
openly courted racists and made wilful ignorance into a badge of
honour to reposition themselves as the anti-political party.

Now Trump is capitalising on his celebrity the only way he is allowed
to. He could never be a serious candidate â?? Reagan only became a
politician years after giving up acting. By articulating the most
extreme positions, he is giving a voice to those who do a lot of noisy
posturing to distance themselves from practical politicians who canâ??t
afford to deal in slogans for the sake of it.

Trump is the Republican Frankensteinâ??s monster, the man they have
encouraged Americans to admire, however much they are trying to
subvert him now. But what is the US itself? Does it act in the
civilized, humane way it preaches, or go around the world adopting the
same attitudes towards others as Trump does, and taking the same
action against them as Trump advocates?

The Closet Russian in Wolfâ??s Clothing

In fact Putin has very good reasons for wanting to work with Trump,
and vice versa. Both Trumpâ??s Republican and Democratic rivals are
quite content to continue with the traditional US policy of saying one
thing and doing the other. The fact that Hillary Clinton is leading
the Democratic race demonstrates this.

Trump really will try and do what he says, even though most of what he
says is obnoxious and cannot be done. Putin will know what he is
getting with Trump, and has good reason to think that the world is
better off with honesty, even if it is stupid in content.

Similarly, Dangerous Donald is very happy to take Putin on the terms
the US wants to take him on. In his comic book world, Putin is a tough
guy who swaggers around doing whatever he wants. While most of the US
would see this as a negative thing, this is what Trump himself
desperately wants to be. Heâ??d rather have Putin in the same gang than
another one, when he knows his own wealth and fame were built on
bluster rather than being the genius he presents himself as.

If Putin has to work with Trump he will work with the real America,
and be very happy doing so. At present, he waits for the US to
compromise itself and then takes the same action himself to undermine
US hegemony. With Trump in charge, he wonâ??t have to wait. The US will
openly do what it pretends not to now, and Putin will advance Russiaâ??s
interests every time Donald opens his mouth.

Actions Speak Louder Than Reality

Trump supporters, who were told he had no chance, are now displaying
their colours with increasing bravado. Recent Trump rallies have
descended into riots, with his own supporters trying to out-tough each
other ( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/donald-trump/12193995/Donald-Trump-may-face-charges-for-inciting-a-riot-over-violence-at-rally.html
). With his hate rhetoric attracting people precisely because they
know that the â??liberal intelligentsiaâ?? rejects it, violence is
similarly seen as a manifestation of â??True Americannessâ?? because it
will be even more condemned by the same people.

The reason Trumpâ??s admiration for Putin has not seen him branded a
closet liberal by these people, as it should logically have done, is
because he has given a particular reason for it. He has stated, quite
reasonably, that the US is wasting money on all the conflicts it is
involved in and these interventions have left all those countries
worse off than before.

Trump ascribes this waste of US money and lives to the liberal
intelligentsia mentality of getting involved in civil conflicts for
arcane policy reasons, whilst ignoring the â??real issuesâ?? that matter
to the average American. Ultimately, he sees this mentality as more
dangerous to America than anything the Russians might do, a new
departure in US politics of any colour.

Trump knows that Americans want action. Politics is talk, but bombing
terrorists is action. In fact he has recently alienated the US Army
brass by saying that the Geneva Convention is a â??problemâ?? which
prevents the US doing what it wants (

This raises questions about his Constitutional fitness to be
Commander-in-Chief, which raises interesting questions about whether
the courts would intervene if he were elected.

Trump regards Putinâ??s involvement in Syria as the sort of forthright
anti-terrorist action he wants to take himself, and derides his own
country for turning stable countries into hotbeds of terrorism. Forget
about politics, and the multitude of civil issues which need to be
handled at any given time by any given politician:in the eyes of
Trump, if you fight fire with fire, and enlist all the tough guys you
can to support you, America becomes great again. That is, in essence,
the entire foreign policy of Donald Trump.

But this attitude is not confined to foreign affairs. He maintains
that foreigners arenâ??t welcome in the US because they are potential
terrorists, and so are all welfare claimants because they arenâ??t
making millions like good Americans should. Trump himself is of
immigrant descent, as are nearly all American citizens, and has filed
for bankruptcy four times, making him less financially viable than a
welfare claimant. But none of this matters if he is tougher than the
next guy, even though others have to do the dirty work for him.

In Trumpâ??s world order Russia will be expected to take a tougher line
against international terrorism to make Trump look better. It will
earn international brownie points by doing so, and be given a free
hand to pursue its every ambition as long as it calls it â??fighting
terrorism.â?? This free hand is what the US itself has demanded for so
long, while trying to dress it up in other terms. A Trump presidency
would end Russian resistance to this by buying it off with the same

Not As Good As It Looks

In such a scenario, Americaâ??s long sponsorship of terrorism will be
one of the casualties of the ongoing international revolt against the
political class. Not a bad thing, most would agree. But what will it
be replaced with? Ongoing attempts to call everyone a terrorist in
order to perpetuate a culture of celebrity designed to prevent
Americans addressing the very â??real issuesâ?? Trump says he wants the
politicians to?

Celebrities such as Trump are treated as untouchable superheroes. As
such, they relate to great historical figures whose reputation has put
them in the same category. Trump would doubtless like to bracket
himself with one such figure in particular; Richard the Lionheart, the
legendary English king who spent all his time engaged in brilliant
combat for Christendom in the Holy Land during the Crusades, the stuff
of poems and ballads and the ideal of chivalry.

Richard the Lionheart avoided his own country as much as possible and
used it purely as a cash cow, practically ruining it in the process.
He was also several things his own people found unacceptable â?? an
admitted homosexual and, very probably, unable to speak any English,
as a Norman Frenchman. That is precisely why he has become a great
hero â?? if you look at him and his reign from any other angle, he
appears so negatively that there is little else to say about him.

Donald Trump sees Vladimir Putin as his ally in creating a ruinous
world for the sake of his own glory. Much of his country is giving him
that opportunity, through its own inherent weakness. It is true that
Russia has much to gain from jumping on this bandwagon in the
short-term â?? but Russia is not America. Putin can play Trump for a
long time, but he too will ultimately have to get back to the real
business before itâ??s too late, as will the American people.

Seth Ferris, investigative journalist and political scientist, expert
on Middle Eastern affairs, exclusively for the online magazine â??New
Eastern Outlookâ??.