Trump and Russia, combined, are a significant threat to the West

Edward Luce, the Financial Times chief US correspondent, has written an article about Donald Trump that bears repeating. It is headlined: “Why Donald Trump will never escape Russia ~ The US president is being outplayed by special investigator Mueller’s chess moves.” But the issue of Mr Mueller’s legal skills and tactics are, relatively, unimportant, as is the eventual fate of Donald Trump … what matters is that Putin is winning a battle that should never even have been joined …

Donald Trump may no longer be interested in Russia,” Mr Luce writes “but Russia is interested in him. Robert Mueller, the special counsel, has now indicted 19 people — including 13 Russians and five Americans who worked on Mr Trump’s campaign. That was just the start. When Mr Mueller gets round to Moscow’s election hacking, more Russians and Americans will surely be added. The Watergate investigation took two years to play out from burglary to presidential resignation. Nine months into the job, Mr Mueller looks to be on a similar timetable.

Familiarity lulls the mind. It is thus easy to miss the enormity of what is unfolding. Mr Mueller is playing a game of chess. Every move is made with his opponent’s king in mind. Last Friday, he boosted his defence by nailing Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Do not take Mr Mueller’s word for it. HR McMaster, Mr Trump’s national security adviser, said Russia’s role was “now incontrovertible”. That makes it far harder for the president to fire Mr Mueller — something he has tried to do more than once. I would bet Mr Trump now sees General McMaster as a sacrificial pawn.

Mr Mueller is skilled at messing with his opponent’s head. Both Mr Trump and Mike Pence, the vice-president, say the charge sheet showed Russia had no effect on the outcome of the US election. In fact, the 37-page document was silent on Russia’s impact. It is telling that America’s two most senior statesmen are reading things that are not there.

Mr Trump is obsessive about claims that his victory over Hillary Clinton was illegitimate. Sixteen months later he is still tweeting about it. Mr Trump’s sensitivity on 2016 prevents him from acknowledging Russia’s role. He won the election fair and square. Anything that casts doubt on that — especially Russia — is taboo.

After discussing some of the details of the Trump campaign’s exploitation of Wikileaks material, Mr Luce continues ~ and this is the important part ~ to explain that:

The stand-off between Mr Mueller and the US president is a geopolitical gift to Mr Putin. Mr Trump is unable to take the tough line on Moscow his advisers are urging. Six months after Congress passed new Russia sanctions, Mr Trump has yet to implement them. The gulf between Mr Trump’s instincts and the advice he receives is widening. His administration formally defines Russia as an adversary. That would have been Mrs Clinton’s stance were she in power. Mr Trump disagrees with it. America’s allies have no idea whom to believe — the president, or the people who work for him. They say different things.

Mr Putin is also reaping ideological dividends. Russia’s aim is to “sow discord” in US democracy, according to Mr Mueller. Mr Putin could open a new bank with the proceeds. Last week Dan Coats, Mr Trump’s director of national intelligence, told Congress he was sure Moscow would interfere in the upcoming US midterm elections. Yet Mr Trump will not even refer to the threat. His administration is doing very little to boost the resilience of America’s election process. We should put Mr Coats down as another dispensable pawn.

But the largest breakdown is with America’s law enforcement agencies. The Federal Bureau of Investigation says Russia tried to sabotage US democracy. Mr Trump insists that claim is a hoax. He even blamed last week’s Florida school massacre on the FBI probe. The agency had spent “too much time on Russia collusion” to act on tip offs about the school shooter, he said. That takes some mind-bending. Are they “laughing their asses off” in Moscow, as Mr Trump tweeted last weekend? They ought to be. America’s president is a gift that keeps on giving.”

In his efforts to convince a skeptical world that he really did win the election, President Trump has become a de facto ally of America’s enemies … in a twisted way he is America’s enemy.

The West, which has grown accustomed to, even dependent upon US leadership,  is adrift because Donald Trump cannot or will not accept the duties that his predecessors in that great office bequeathed to him: to lead the free world. He is a failure as a president and as a human being.

The world must wait while the Americans work out how to cure the diseases that infects their body politic ~ that’s America’s business alone and they don’t need our help or advice. They will manage, I’m confident of that. In the interim we must understand that Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping will take every strategic advantage of the leadership vacuum that President Trump has created by being unable to lead or perhaps just unfit for the office he holds … no mater how he won it.

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