Rachel Maddow lets us all down with her tax return nothing burger on her show last night, and you’re still hungry. Maybe even hangry! We get it. So instead feast your hungry eyes on this SOMETHING burger — this riveting interview between the Moscow Times editor-in-chief and Sam Illing from Vox to explain how Russia views our new president and what that may mean for Democracy and the future.
Mikhail Fishman runs the weekly English language publication based in Moscow. Fishman has covered Russian politics for 15 years and has been one of President Vladimir Putin’s biggest critics. And Fishman has kept a close watch on the budding bromance between Trump and Putin over the course of the presidential campaign and new presidency and he has some interesting things to say about it.
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Fishman starts the interview by calling the relationship between the two world leaders “strange.” He doesn’t believe the relationship is due to blackmail, because he’s an evidence-based kind of guy and hasn’t seen proof of a Russian hooker pee pee tape. But this, he believes, makes the whole thing stranger.
Because Fishman sees the two leaders as completely different people, telling Illing:
They come from very different worlds. Putin is an ex-Soviet intelligence officer with all that that implies. Trump is a colorful American businessman and showman.
“In their habits, they’re radically different. Trump is a posturing performer, full of idiotic narcissism. He appears to be a disorganized fool, to be honest. Putin, on the other hand, is calculating, organized, and he plans everything. He also hides much of his personal life in a way that Trump does not.
Fishman adds that Putin is vastly more experienced than Trump in dealing with global politics, “[Trump] displays his ignorance every single day.”
However, Fishman says the view of Trump in Russia-at-large is that he is a serious representative of the American people who is being mistreated by the evil American establishment — an image created by the Russian propaganda machine. But Fishman says obviously the Kremlin knows this is bullshit — the image was initially created to damage Hillary Clinton. And Putin was prepared to treat Clinton’s election, had she won, as a fraud. In fact, Putin did not believe Trump would win the election.
Illing asks Fishman, “Has Putin made a puppet of Trump?”
Fishman responds, “Of course,” adding:
This is certainly what the Kremlin believes, and they’re acting accordingly. They’re quite obviously playing Trump. They consider him a stupid, unstrategic politician. Putin is confident that he can manipulate Trump to his advantage, and he should be.
Fishman says what Putin wishes to gain is respect for Russia on the world stage. Putin was not prepared for the isolation and backlash that resulted after his 2014 invasion into Crimea. Had Clinton won, Putin saw her presidency as a harsh extension of the Obama-era sanctions.
Trump is his chance to pull his country back to greatness — if Trump does not comply willingly, Putin has an arsenal of soviet-era tactics to make him bend to his will. And it’s glaringly clear Trump is naïve to that reality.
But further than that, Putin does not believe a real Democracy exists and will show Russia the chaos in America to prove that theory.
For Putin, this is very much a zero-sum game. The West is the enemy. America is the enemy. Whatever you can do to damage the enemy, you do it. The more unrest there is in America, the better positioned Russia is to work its will on the world stage. He wants to divide democratic and European nations in order to then play those divisions to his advantage.
Illing asks Fishman if Trump’s admiration of Putin’s authoritarianism is something we should be worried about. Fishman replied, “I think it is.”
Read the full interview here.