To hear Vladimir Putin rise to the defense of Donald Trump, as Putin lays the blame for the Russia dossier at the feet of Barack Obama, was remarkable. Why would Donald Trump need our prostitutes, the Russian leader actually said in his purported defense of his new BFF, when he runs all those beauty contests and obviously has plenty of women to choose from. Assuming Putin had nothing to do with the dossier, is there anything he could have said to better draw attention to it?
To hear Donald Trump embrace the words of the Russian President in righteous defense of his own credibility was even more remarkable, particularly as it came in the wake of his announcement that his first foreign trip will be to Moscow, and as he pronounced that he is in favor of removing sanctions levied against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Assuming that Trump is not actually in cahoots with Putin as the dossier suggests, is there anything he could have done to suggest more emphatically that he is?
Trump has proven to be easily baited, and will predictably do the opposite of whatever those he views as his adversaries suggest he should do. Thus, the more the intelligence community, along with Senators like John McCain and Lindsay Graham, point out Putin's transparent duplicity, the greater Trump's determination to continue down the path he has chosen, and the greater the risks that he will drag much of the post-Cold War western democratic order with him.
Is this an overreaction? Is it possible that Donald Trump knows what he is doing, and will succeed in remaking the relationship between the United States and Russia in ways that both George W. Bush and Barack Obama imagined, but failed to do. We will see. But I imagine that Putin will not wait for the ink to dry on the swearing in of the 45th President of the United States before he tests that new relationship.
Who knows how things will transpire, but we do know that President Trump will be tested.
Estonia would be an attractive target. It has a large ethnic Russian population and the country's major population centers are an easy drive by tank from the Russian border. "Estonia is a suburb of St. Petersburg," Trump supporter and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich pronounced last July, as he mirrored Trump's disdain for the NATO alliance and mocked our commitment to come to the defense of the Baltic nation should Russia choose to act.
Perhaps it will begin with riots that erupt in Estonia in response to a cyber attack on its utility grid, leaving the population without power. As the government struggles to contain civil unrest, violence erupts as protesters are shot in the street by armed gangs. Putin reacts swiftly, decrying the loss of life and growing chaos near its border, and sends in military 'peacekeepers' as a humanitarian effort to protect the population--including its minority ethnic Russian population--and successfully quells the violence. Donald Trump applauds Putin’s swift action to restore order and save lives.
By the time a meeting of NATO allies is convened to debate whether Article 5 should be invoked, the moment is passed. Putin agrees to meet with Donald Trump, following which Putin agrees to leave Estonia--noting of course that he never intended to occupy the country--while Trump announces that he has directed the CIA to cease activities in Ukraine.
Trump applauds the negotiated agreement, blaming prior administrations for having instigated events in Ukraine and Georgia for no reason other than to provoke Russia. Trump goes on to suggests that the great powers of the world should henceforth treat each other with respect and deference to their regional issues, which is quickly dubbed the Trump Doctrine, and wildly applauded by his base, while decried by the U.S. and European foreign policy establishment.
Having effectively proved NATO article five to be a dead letter and gotten American advisors out of Ukraine and Georgia, Putin and Trump meet again in Trump Tower, where together they announce the end of sanctions and a new Partnership for Prosperity.
Across Europe, right wing parties celebrate and stock markets collapse as the implications of the new world order begin to settle in. Back in fortress America, Donald Trump cheers the collapse of the old, rigged world--to the wild accolades of his base--while investors and corporations rush to return to the United States, the only safe haven in a new, far riskier, world.
Artwork by Jay Duret. Follow him on Twitter @jayduret or Instagram at @joefaces.