US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Vladimir Putin is experiencing his worst year in the 20 years he has been in power. In Russia, the coronavirus continues to rage: to date, more than half a million cases of infection and 8 thousand 100 deaths have been recorded in the country, although there are suspicions that these figures are significantly underestimated. Russia’s economy is weakening so quickly that the government decided not to publish GDP data for May – for the first time in 15 years. Putin’s reckless decision to start an oil war with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has further aggravated the recession.
Previously, Putin had to postpone the referendum, which would allow him to remain in office as president until 2036. This referendum will be held on July 1, and there is no doubt that the authorities will get the result they need. However, Putin’s rating has already reached its lowest point since Boris Yeltsin appointed him his prime minister and successor in 1999.
Worst of all, from Putin’s point of view, his vaunted foreign policy aimed at restoring Russia’s global influence through bold tricks and clever maneuvers has come to a standstill. Since February, the Russian military and their intermediaries have been rapidly losing ground in Syria and Libya, which turns both of these interventions into bogs, from which Putin cannot easily get out without losing his face. The new president of Ukraine rejected his plan to resolve the military conflict in the east of this country on the conditions of Moscow, while those parts of Ukraine controlled by Russian proteges are sucking billions from the already scarce Russian budget.
Putin needs help. He really needs a victory. In particular, he needs the re-election of President Trump. And in a variety of ways – at the same time more frank and more veiled than in 2016 – Putin is trying to achieve this.
There is no doubt that some of Putin’s entourage were disappointed with the Trump administration. Influenced by belligerent advisers such as John Bolton, Trump pulled the United States out of the two most important Russian-American arms control agreements, and he appears to be set to put an end to the agreement, which limits strategic nuclear arsenals. Trump obeyed Congressional decisions to impose anti-Russian sanctions and – also under the powerful pressure of both parties – gave Ukraine lethal weapons.
However, let’s look at what gifts Trump has presented to Putin over the past three and a half years. Trump openly destroys Putin’s main enemy – the NATO alliance. In June, the US president unexpectedly decided to withdraw more than a quarter of the US military from Germany. Trump gave Russia the opportunity to intervene in the affairs of the Middle East and increase its influence on Turkey, Egypt and even Israel. Trump ruined the once-close relationship between Washington and Kiev – Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky never received an invitation to Washington.
More importantly, Putin realized that, as Bolton said in his interview last week, he could play Trump “like a violin.” The whole world saw Putin persuade the U.S. president to announce at their joint press conference in Helsinki in 2018 that Trump believes Putin’s words that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 US presidential election. According to Bolton, in private conversations, Putin managed to convince Trump that the Venezuelan opposition leader is very similar to Hillary Clinton and therefore does not deserve support.
In the event of a re-election, Trump will most likely continue to insist on Russia’s return to the G-7, which will significantly strengthen Putin’s position in the international arena. Trump can also once and for all withdraw the United States from NATO. And he can help Putin achieve his most important geopolitical goal, namely return Ukraine to Russia’s orbit and launch the process of lifting American and European sanctions against the Russian economy.
So yes, Putin will do everything possible to help Trump. The remaining doubts finally settled when Putin gave an interview last week that addressed the White House directly. According to him, the “deep-seated internal crises” were caused by the actions of the anti-trump forces, which, instead of reconciling with his “absolutely obvious” victory in the 2016 elections, “in a democratic way <…> invented all sorts of fables just to cast doubt on his legitimacy “.
While Putin has spoken out publicly in support of Trump, his aides are working to provide Trump with the necessary weapons. For example, in May, an audio recording suddenly appeared in Kiev – published by a politician associated with Russian intelligence – in which then-vice president Joe Biden tried to force the Ukrainian president to fire a corrupt prosecutor. This record was made public in order to give a new impetus to the accusations against the Democratic presidential candidate. Groups of Russians-controlled social media accounts, as The New York Times recently reported, systematically inflate conspiracy theories spread by Trump’s insane followers.
Currently, Russian intervention does not bring visible benefits, and Trump’s chances of winning in November are diminishing. But Putin is very inventive. Like Trump, Putin is prepared to take risks and violate norms. In 2016, he did not expect Trump to win, but now Trump’s victory is really necessary for him.
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