Trump Confides in Putin and Humiliates Europe Once Again

Europe is looking at the results of the first meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin with unease. The leaders’ two-pronged attack on the continent has led to a situation of growing concern: an increasingly isolated EU, dealing with internal division in the face of serious challenges such as the rise of nationalist populism across Europe and the isolationism of its traditional Atlantic ally. It never could expect much from Russia – especially not after Putin came to power – but now it can’t expect much from the United States either, since the U.S. is led by a man who has declared trade war on an EU which he attacks every time he sets foot on European soil. Democracy fades away before the realpolitik practiced by the two leaders, who met face-to-face in Finland July 16 amid great expectation.

Their shared head-on approach disguised as frankness seems to have forged an interpersonal chemistry of immeasurable political consequences. Analysts agree that the mere fact the bilateral summit occurred in the first place (and in Helsinki), despite the sanctions imposed on Russia for its turn down an illiberal route, was a geopolitical victory for Putin, whose interference in the presidential election which saw Trump defeat Hillary Clinton has allowed him to be one of the few international leaders that the eccentric American president hasn’t insulted. A gesture the Russian leader has returned accordingly. But the summit cements Putin’s authoritarian Russia as the United States’ strategic partner to the detriment of European democracies, which Trump looks down on for their weakness and inability to speak with one voice. In contrast, he’s let himself be seduced by a strongman like Putin, who’s willing to persecute the opposition and change the rules in order to stay in power.

There are many hot spots demanding the attention of both leaders, from the wars in Ukraine and Syria to Moscow’s suspected electronic interference in election processes; from the Iranian nuclear program to economic cooperation. Trump left the meeting hopeful; it’s a “good start,” he said. This statement underscores the appeasement policy that the president of world’s first democracy is using to try to restore Putin’s image on the international stage and to humiliate the democratic values represented by Europe, a Europe which Trump is already calling a “foe,” while proclaiming that U.S. policy on Russia has “changed.” But it’s changed because of Trump’s rapprochement with Putin, not because of any democratization of Russia under America’s influence. This is very bad news that in the years to come, threatens to dramatically alter the world order we knew.

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