I don’t know if you’ve noticed over the last couple of years, but the current president* doesn’t know very much about foreign policy. Luckily, though, as the Washington Postdemonstrates, he knows exactly where to go for help.
Trump’s conversations with Putin, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and others reinforced his perception of Ukraine as a hopelessly corrupt country — one that Trump now also appears to believe sought to undermine him in the 2016 U.S. election, the officials said…But their disparaging depictions of Ukraine reinforced Trump’s perceptions of the country and fed a dysfunctional dynamic in which White House officials struggled to persuade Trump to support the fledgling government in Kyiv instead of exploiting it for political purposes, officials said.
Now, this story is shot through with anonymous score-settling from departed employees of Camp Runamuck, but has any story ever rung more truly than this one? El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago loves him some actual dictators, and that’s aside even from whatever else is behind his big old crush on Vladimir Putin. Of course, he would go to these guys for guidance. And, because they are smarter than he is, Orban and Putin would know exactly what to say to Uncle Sap when he calls. (Orban’s rise in Hungary more closely resembles what the president* would like to do here than even Putin’s rise in Russia does.) Give the president* his emotional cookie and he’ll sell out democracy cheap. Feed his delusions and you can gobble up Crimea.
American policy has for years been “built around containing malign Russian influence” in Eastern Europe, a U.S. official said. Trump’s apparent susceptibility to the arguments he hears from Putin and Orban is “an example of the president himself under malign influence — being steered by it.”
I suspect that this story may vanish beneath the waves now that the president* has declared himself the victim of a “lynching.” (Honest to god, he did that Tuesday morning.) But it shouldn’t. It’s the best example yet of the dangers inherent in his ignorance, rather than the dangers inherent in his venality. You can play this president* like a tin whistle if you read him correctly, and you can read him like a one-page flyer stuck under your windshield wipers at the Piggly Wiggly. Putin and Orban are good at being autocrats and dictators. They can see an incompetent one coming from miles away.