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Trump's Putin Play: Will It Work?

Trump's Putin Play: Will It Work?

A journalist in Moscow points at a portrait of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin last year. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

By Friday, 06 January 2017 09:46 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Nothing seems to excite Donald Trump more these days than the prospect that he will soon be dealing with Vladimir Putin.

Over the holidays I had numerous conversations with the president-elect. He mentioned Putin almost every time.

Trump said the two recently had a phone call. Putin is equally excited about the new potential here — he also holds great disdain for President Barack Obama.

Full disclosure here: I am a Putin critic. I don't trust the man and see him as a great danger. But with Trump's new policy, I am taking an approach similar to when Obama opened Cuba.

While I did not support Obama's move, I thought it was worth the risk to go forward and see what happens.

If Trump can pull off a miracle with Russia and turn Putin into a friend, then better for all of us. It won't take long to find out.

My prediction is that the relationship will blow up quickly. This won't be due to Trump, who is extending an olive branch with the best of intentions.

Trump likely sees this as a new partnership — one where we help the Russians on some matter of concern to them, and they reciprocate in another area for us. A win-win approach typical of Trump.

But Putin will soon want things Trump won't compromise on. He most certainly will overreach. He will think Trump owes him.

When Putin misbehaves and embarrasses Trump, he will not respond nicely.

Putin faces a rude awakening.

Trump has just announced he wants to modernize our nuclear weapons and dramatically increase our stockpile. Putin can't like this.

Trump told me the START deal signed by Obama was a "bad deal," giving Russia an advantage in strategic nuclear weapons. He also is aware that Russia holds a very large advantage in tactical nuclear warheads.

I was surprised how comprehensive Trump's knowledge on the matter was.

Trump isn't even president yet, and he's maneuvering to ensure the U.S. has the upper hand with Putin when it comes to military power. This is both good and smart.

Some wonder why Trump is so focused on Russia and so critical of China.

China, for example, is the world's second largest economy. Though there has been friction, a friendly relationship with China offers the U.S. far more on the upside than a close relationship with Russia.

Russia, after all, is a one-trick pony economy with oil and gas. And it's small, having about the same GDP of countries like Spain, Australia, and Mexico.

Trump may like talking up Russia because Putin offers a great storyline. The idea of Putin becoming a friend of the U.S. does capture one's imagination. And everyone is talking about Trump's bold take on this, just as they were about a possible Secretary of State Mitt Romney.

Second, Trump knows there are few world leaders around these days, except for Putin. Putin developed his reputation by being a bad boy using devious statesmanship.

Trump respects strong characters.

Trump made his own political career taking on the biggest guy in town, Barack Obama. Now he has his sights set on the world stage.

Putin has never met Trump, but he is likely impressed by Trump's charisma and television career.

I hear Putin rarely travels into the Kremlin, spending most of his time at his country dacha. He is said to work out in the gym as much as two hours a day, and to watch an inordinate amount of television and movies.

During the Obama years, when the Russian government refused to meet U.S. congressional leaders, the U.S. Embassy had to call upon actor Steven Seagal, a friend of Putin's, to intervene. The arrangements were quickly made.

If Trump's new access to the Russian president leads to better behavior and more stability, it could be a good thing.

But Trump is not naïve.

And the MSNBC idea that Trump is something of a "Manchurian candidate" for the Russians is also nonsense.

I do not believe Russia's hacking helped Trump win — and Trump shares that view.

The Russian hacking and the Podesta email fallout was a national story that should have affected the vote across the whole country. But when we look at the state-by-state results we find that in many states Hillary Clinton actually outperformed Obama's result in 2012. 

She did this in blue states like California and in red states like Arizona, Georgia, and even Texas, where she cut Obama's 16-point loss in 2012 to just 9 against Trump. And in many other states she did as well as Obama.

Secretary of State Clinton lost because her campaign staff never engaged properly in crucial states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — especially after it was clear that usually Democratic Ohio was moving so strongly in Trump's column (he actually won that state with a bigger margin than he won Texas).

Trump, to his credit, saw the opportunity in these states and seized it, winning fairly.

Still, the Russian overt interference with the U.S. election is without precedent and a result of President Obama's weakness. Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham are right when they suggest that Russia engaged in an “act of war.”

Rather than argue the matter, my own advice for Trump would be to fully embrace the Senate's Russian hacking probe, but also broaden it to include all foreign interference in U.S. elections.

At the same time, we need to remember that Putin has not demonstrated a desire to be a good global citizen.

Just like the old Soviet days, the Russians couch all of their bad behavior as defensive in nature.

For example, the Russians complain that NATO is moving right up to their border, justifying their illegal aggression against their neighbors, including the invasions of states like the Ukraine and Georgia. But the truth is the opposite. Russian bullying has frightened their once satellite states. They are running to NATO and the EU for protection.

The "facts" about Putin and Russia caused these nations to act in a certain way.

At some point, President Trump will face similar facts and he will act too.

Christopher Ruddy is CEO and editor of Newsmax Media Inc. Read more Christopher Ruddy Insider articles — Click Here Now.















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Nothing seems to excite Donald Trump more these days than the prospect that he will soon be dealing with Vladimir Putin.
Trump, Putin, Podesta, Russia
Friday, 06 January 2017 09:46 AM
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