June 16, 2001 was the very first time President George W. Bush of the United States met with Vladimir Putin of Russia while Bush held sway in power. It was at a summit hosted by the then Prime Minister of Slovenia, Janez Drnovšek, and the Slovenian President, Milan Kučan.
At the closing press conference, something interesting happened in the global power arena. A question was posed to Bush on whether he could trust Putin. In response, he said, “I looked the man in the eye. I found him very straightforward and trustworthy – I was able to get a sense of his soul.”
That was such a famous gaffe packed with discomforting naivety which Bush paid for dearly for the rest of his presidency.
Condoleezza Rice, Bush top aide and diplomat, was later to pass off the impression that Bush was eventually betrayed by Putin.
Interestingly, Putin still remains relevant for want of another word, in the American political scheme of things. Not a few American and international observers have whispered, matter-of-factly, that Putin and top Russian officials were behind the many hacked emails dotting and oozing odiously on the US political landscape and that actually mounted obstacles in the way of a hitherto supposed smooth passage of Hillary Clinton to the White House as the next President of the US. While Putin would readily dismiss and describe this as laughable, the accusing fingers simply refuse to drawn down. There has not been a potent argument in denial.
Why would Putin despise Clinton so much?
Since the days of Barack Obama in power, no top ranking diplomat has been as vocally opposed to Putin as Mrs. Clinton. This has led to very malevolent hangovers bordering on ego-hurting skirmishes.
From Stone Age territorial expansion ambitions and crude conquests, to domestic political manipulations, Clinton has never spared Putin in utterances that project the latter as a modern-day despot. One of these is Clinton’s denouncement of Putin as she accused him of rigging Russian elections and strangulating the democratic process to get to power. Clinton said, “Russian voters deserve a full investigation of electoral fraud and manipulation… Regardless of where you live, citizenship requires holding your government accountable”.
Clinton said rigged elections prevent people from having their voices heard. She said the Russian people like everywhere else in the world deserve the right to have their voices heard and their votes counted. This sheer effrontery gutted Putin.
December 8, 2011 at a meeting with some of his key advisers, Putin described Clinton as stoking the fire of crisis in his home country. He said Clinton “gave the signal to the activists which they latched onto culminating in an unprecedented crisis of protest across up to 70 cities in the Russian federation. Putin not only saw this as an interference in his jealously protected sovereignty, he viewed it as a personal affront from Clinton. Putin reacted in these words:
“The first thing that the secretary of state did was say that they (the elections) were not honest and not fair, but she had not even yet received the material from the observers”. As mildly a protest as that sounded, Clinton was marked.
That was not all. In 2009, soon after President Obama took office, the Russian constitutional requirement had ensured Putin’s protégé, Dmitry Medvedev, became President. A man who indulged in a taste for gadgets, his musical stereo on a certain breakfast timeout with Putin caught the sharp eyes of Russian bloggers who estimated the musical equipment to be close to $200,000! What more, it was a showcase of western technology. This “guy-man” allure of Medvedev must have been spotted as a probable “weak” link through which Clinton mobilised the American government under Obama to work with Medvedev in her neo-Russian relationship strategy called “Reset”. Reset was symbolically launched on March 6, 2009 through a symbolic button push joined by the duo of Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, and Mrs. Clinton. Back home however, Russian political hardliners and obviously Putin loyalists were not comfortable with this proposition as they viewed America’s romance with Medvedev as an attempt to undermine Putin and water down his political influence.
Clinton had at no time hidden her distrust and maybe disgust for Putin. She once told the CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that she entered the Russia-reset project with “sceptical eyes wide open”. She had once described Putin as a KGB former operative who couldn’t have had a soul. She once told President Obama to tread with arm-distance with Putin. “Do not patronise and do not warm up to him”. That’s the language she believes Putin understands that can cut him to size.
This portends that to Hillary, Putin represents only the dastardly and ominously cold organised savagery that the KGB represents, which decent people should relate to in measured steps.
It is with all this background that Clinton went into battle with property mogul and billionaire, Donald Trump. And as the battle for the White House reached a feverish crescendo, with Clinton delivering punching polls at Trump’s jaws, matching and surpassing his advertising spend dollar beyond dollar, Trump abrasively sought “refuge” under Putin. Wikileaks Julia Assange offered himself as a willing pawn in a very high wired political chess game in a tripartite mutually agreed objective to mow down Clinton.
Trump, a very unlikely President in an ideal theatre of political civility having employed all the populist cum conspiracy theories in the world, from misogyny to racism to subtle xenophobic tendencies had driven himself to a dead end and all by himself set himself up for political self-destruct. Believing he had successfully tickled the ears of American white supremacist voters with unrealistic and at best fairytale promises, he made his ride to the White House a mission impossible even becoming a pariah of some sort amongst decent leaders of the world. I listened to British billionaire, Richard Branson, describe Trump as an unforgiving soul who vowed to him over lunch to destroy those he approached but who couldn’t help him raise money in his time of financial distress. Branson warned America against entrusting leadership in the hands of such a petty and unstable fellow. Clinton therefore had a double digit lead above Trump before Jim Comey, FBI Director, in his pious ambition for self-glorification dealt the Democrats a blow and became the most hated man on their list! Whatever Comey was thinking, he either wittingly or unwittingly stationed himself within the hot zone political crossfire which many observers opine may tilt the election’s balancing scale in favour of a man who declared bankruptcy more than thrice, rebelled in sexual assault more than teens, deposed citizens of other races and a man who up till now has pending cases over the sincerity of purpose behind founding Trump University for which he’s been accused of shady inclinations.
Trump knows that Putin deep within him mocks the West’s liberal democratic model, undermines trans-Atlantic ties, manipulates Eastern European countries and supports the far right against the EU.
Trump knows that Putin despises Clinton because she stands in direct defiance to his vision to position Russia with deadly plots as a power bloc capable of weakening Europe, NATO and the US.
Therefore, Trump knows Putin hates Clinton not because he loves America but because he wants to rein America in and if possible subject her under his whims as another “captured” territory.
It is such a shock then that Trump is openly endorsing Putin and even promising to recognise his annexation of Crimea, a territorial expansionist victim of Putin which sparked global outrage!
It portends that if America’s sovereignty and pride of place have to be sacrificed in crucial decision making moments, Trump will adopt the principle of selfish convenience and allow his perceived myopia-end to justify the means. Conversely, my understanding of the painstaking debate American leaders indulge in to take crucial decisions clearly demonstrate that Trump when he gets to power as he desperately covets now will find out how extraneous and nerve-racking it shall be to take his FIAT decisions that promise to isolate America from the rest of the world. The sad thing is, he knows he’s deceiving his listeners, I don’t know if his listeners know they are being deceived.
As Americans go to the polls, those listening to Trump, thinking he’s “blunt and honest” may soon realise that they are unknowingly planting a dangerous reptile on global roof. When he goes berserk, neither America nor the world shall know peace. As it looks bleak for him to become POTUS except through a miraculous upset, it signals a hopeful relief for a fragile world.