Kyiv Post | 02Aug2018 | Oksana Bashuk Hepburn

Putin’s carrot to Trump

President Donald Trump has befuddled the world since coming to power but the last few weeks have been ghastly.

Insults have rained down on friends -- Canada, Germany, Great Britain -- agreements like NAFTA upturned and NATO’s membership threatened. Meanwhile, autocrats -- especially Russia’s President Vladimir Putin -- got away with murder; some 11,000 have been killed in his war in Ukraine; a half-million in Syria.

It gets worse. Trump’s one-on-one with Russia’s president may have ominous results. Hailed as “super” by Russia, it implied, among others, that the leaders agreed on sanctions -- to bypass them? -- abandoned Syria’s freedom fighters, and struck an “interesting” deal in Ukraine. Uncharacteristically, America’s leader has said nothing.

If this is so, it’s a devilish agenda. Totally devoid of moral and political standards it demands an answer to why the leader of the free world is caving to the will of an international criminal?

In a far-reaching Globe and Mail piece, Canada’s Mark MacKinnon writes that “many believe Mr. Putin would like to see the planet divided once more into Western, Russian and perhaps Chinese, zones of control. ”Ukraine", which MacKinnon considers indispensable to Russia’s greatness “would fall on (Russia’s) side of any new Iron Curtain.”

This is happening already.

Unpunished for brazenly annexing Ukraine’s Crimea -- not on the sanction list and Russia is still in SWIFT -- Mr. Putin’s aspirations expand beyond Ukraine; even beyond the former U.S.S.R. He’s aiming, it seems, to usurp all of Europe.

Great Britain is exiting the European Union, NATO is threatened, newly announced tariffs are causing chaos. Germany is aiding and abetting with Nord Stream 2; a godsend for Russia. It delivers much-needed revenues, punishes Ukraine and blocks Europe’s energy independence. Meanwhile, Steve Bannon -- Trump’s ideologue is using his alt-right movement to align Europeans further with Moscow which, masquerading as the standard bearer for national purity, family and Christian values, aims to seduce Europe to its will.

So, Putin gets Europe. What does Trump get?

Because he wants to be a one-man show with absolute power -- like a dictator without checks and balances -- America’s president gets a willing mentor to help him make America like Russia.

In this America, as in Russia, the leader’s lies are truths. The free press is the enemy of the people to be besmirched and, if need be, eliminated. Checks and balances are neutralized through patronage, nepotism or pay-offs. In due course, opponents are arrested in the name of national security or other trumped-up but noble-sounding reasons. Mock trials follow to cover-up the real criminal, the dictator. Subservience is ensured by creating fear; loss of job, influence, status and, just as in Russia, even life.

The military and law-enforcement entities -- now the leader’s personal security apparatus rather than the defendants of the state, make sure the leader is “safe” from his people. The president’s office is used to enrich the incumbent, his family and entourage. It is not lost on President Trump that his Russian counterpart may be the richest man in the world.

This is Putin’s carrot to Trump. It’s the knowledge and experience of how to obtain and hold such absolute power. For this to happen out of the public eye, secret meetings are needed to ensure that no one is certain of too much.

But there may be even more to Mr. Putin’s carrot. Beyond absolute control of America, President Trump gets all of North America.

Such an arrangement would explain why Trump is so cock-sure that Mexico “will pay for the wall” and his incomprehensible rudeness to Canada’s prime minister. Incomprehensible, until one realizes that without U.S. defense, Canada is vulnerable to Russia or, equally frightening, to a now belligerent neighbor to the south.

This is important: if Putin can attack Ukraine because he wants its territory and human and natural resources and get away with it, why can’t Trump?

But what about the Middle East and China?

Russia’s sources stated that these were addressed at the secret Helsinki meeting. Also, that Israel is to be strengthened, a nod to intense pressure from its Russia and U.S. diaspora, but Syria’s freedom fighters are to be thrown to the wolves. China is to become a common enemy.

But first things first. Europe is to be Putin’s; North America Trump’s unless the Mueller investigation or robust public opinion stops this insanity. The overwhelming condemnation of the secret Helsinki meeting gives some hope.

Oksana Bashuk Hepburn, formerly president of a consulting company brokering interests between Canada and Ukraine, and policy adviser to the government on Canada, writes on international issues.