Here’s what Russians think of Putin’s little pony

Trump probably admires the fact that Putin is the kind of guy who feels the need to ride horses shirtless.

We know the pump truppets think they’ve elected the greatest president since Jesus wrote the Declaration of Independence. But what do the people who helped him win the presidency think (via Vox):

Mikhail Fishman is the editor-in-chief of the Moscow Times, an English-language weekly newspaper published in Moscow. The paper is critical of Vladimir Putin; indeed, it was targeted twice in 2015 by Russian hackers and has been attacked repeatedly by pro-Kremlin pundits 

A Russian citizen and an outspoken critic of Putin, Fishman has covered Russian politics for more than 15 years. For the past year, he has monitored the increasingly bizarre relationship between Putin and Trump, with a particular focus on Putin’s strategic aims.

In this interview, originally conducted in February, I ask Fishman how Trump is perceived in Russia, why Putin is actively undermining global democracy, and what Russia hopes to gain from the political disorder in America.


Sean Illing

From your perch in Moscow, how do you see this strange relationship between Putin and Trump?

 

Mikhail Fishman

It is strange. It looks a bit irrational on Trump’s part to be sure. Why does he have this strange passion for Putin and Russia? I have to say, I don’t believe in the conspiracy theories about “golden showers” and blackmailing. I don’t believe it exists and I don’t believe it’s a factor. But this, admittedly, makes the whole thing that much stranger.

Sean Illing

You’re obviously referencing the explosive Trump dossier published by Buzzfeed in January. What makes you so skeptical of the claims in that dossier?

Mikhail Fishman

Two things. One, I’ve been a political journalist for 15 years working and dealing with sources in Russia and elsewhere. And frankly, a lot of this appears shallow to me. I’m sure Russia has plenty of dirt on Trump, but I can’t accept without hard evidence much of the what I’ve heard or read.

Second, this still has the ring of a conspiracy theory, this idea that the Kremlin has blackmailed Trump into submission. I’m generally opposed, on principle, to conspiracy theorizing. So I’m just skeptical until there’s concrete evidence.

Sean Illing

Let’s talk about Trump and Putin as individuals. How are they different? How are they similar?

Mikhail Fishman

I would prefer to talk about how they’re different, because those differences are so obvious and extreme. 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.

Then there’s also the fact that Putin is so much more experienced than Trump. He has more than 15 years of global political experience. He knows how to do things, how to work the system. He makes plenty of mistakes, but he knows how to think and act. Trump is a total neophyte. He has no experience and doesn’t understand how global politics operates. He displays his ignorance every single day.

Sean Illing

What is the perception of Trump in Russia? Is he seen as an ally, a foe, a stooge?

Mikhail Fishman

The vision of Trump is basically shaped by the Kremlin and their propaganda machine — that’s what they do. During the election campaign, Trump was depicted not as an underdog but as an honest representative of the American people who was being mistreated by the establishment elites and other evil forces in Washington.

Sean Illing

The Kremlin knew that to be bullshit, right? This was pure propaganda, not sincere reporting, and it was aimed at damaging Hillary Clinton.

Mikhail Fishman

Of course. All of it was aimed at damaging Hillary Clinton. Putin expected Trump to lose, but the prospect of a Clinton victory terrified him, and he did everything possible to undermine her.

 

Sean Illing

Why was he so afraid of a Clinton victory?

Mikhail Fishman

Because he knew that would mean an extension of Obama’s harsh orientation to Russia, perhaps even more aggressive than Obama. Putin has experienced some difficult years since his 2014 invasion of Crimea, but he didn’t expect this level of isolation. He saw — and sees — Trump as an opportunity to change the dynamic.

Sean Illing

A lot of commentators here believe the most generous interpretation of Trump’s fawning orientation to Putin and Russia is that he’s hopelessly naïve. Do you buy that?

Mikhail Fishman

That’s a good question. Why does he like Putin so much? I think Trump sees Putin as a kind of soulmate. Let’s be honest: Trump is not a reflective person. He’s quite simple in his thinking, and he’s sort of attracted to Putin’s brutal forcefulness. If anything, this is what Trump and Putin have in common.

Sean Illing

Has Putin made a puppet of Trump?

Mikhail Fishman

Of course. 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.

Sean Illing

In other words, Trump’s a useful idiot to them?

Mikhail Fishman

Exactly. The Kremlin is limited in their knowledge about what’s going on in Washington, but they see the chaos and the confusion in Trump’s administration. They see the clumsiness, the inexperience. Naturally, they’re working to exploit that.

Sean Illing

What’s the long geopolitical play for Putin? What does he hope to gain from the disorder in America?

 

Mikhail Fishman

The first thing he wants and needs is the symbolic legitimization of himself and Russia as a major superpower and world player that America has to do deal with as an equal. He wants to escape the isolation of Russia on the world stage, which was what the campaign in Syria was all about. Putin has grand ambitions for himself and for Russia, and nearly every move he makes is animated by this.

Sean Illing

How much of this, from Putin’s perspective, is about discrediting democracy as such?

Mikhail Fishman

He didn’t believe Trump would win, so he was preparing to sell Clinton’s victory as a fraud. And this is part of his broader message across the board, which is that democracy itself is flawed, broken, unjust. Putin actually believes this. He doesn’t believe in democracy, and this is the worldview that he basically shares with Trump: that the establishment is corrupt and that the liberal world order is unjust.

Sean Illing

But Putin’s interest in undermining democracies across the globe is about much more than his personal disdain for this form of government. He wants to point to the chaos in these countries and say to his domestic audience, “You see, democracy is a sham, and it doesn’t work anywhere.” That serves as a justification for his own anti-democratic policies. In the end, it’s about reinforcing his own power.

Mikhail Fishman

That’s true. But again, this what Putin really believes. He does not believe a true and just democracy exists anywhere. This is the worldview they’ve been spinning for years and they’ve really internalized it.

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.

 

Sean Illing

A pervasive concern in this country is that Trump admires Putin’s strongman authoritarianism, and seeks to replicate it in America. Do you think this concern is well-founded?

Mikhail Fishman

I think it is. Again, it comes to back what Trump and Putin have in common. They’re both male chauvinists. Trump probably admires the fact that Putin is the kind of guy who feels the need to ride horses shirtless; it appeals to his authoritarian instincts. But this is about much more than imagery.

They are both illiterate people in a way. They’re not widely educated. They do not believe in institutions. They see democratic institutions as burdens, impediments to their will. They don’t believe that social and political life should be sophisticated; they think it should be simple.

And this sort of thinking naturally concludes in one-man rule. I think Trump will fail, but there’s no doubt that he shares these authoritarian impulses with Putin.

In the movie version, Paul Ryan is played by Elijah Cook Jr.

Former FBI Director Jim Comey testified before a Senate committee yesterday and said Putin’s Little Pony tried to strongarm him into dropping the investigation into Michael “Lock Her Up” Flynn’s selling of his soul to the Russians. And on top of that, Comey essentially said you can tell everything Hookerpiss says is a lie, because his mouth is moving.

So House Speaker Paul Ryan, the gunsel to America’s Sydney Greenstreet, offered a defense of his sugar daddy:

While former FBI Director James Comey testified before Congress on Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) attempted to defend the president by claiming that Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing.

In his weekly press conference Thursday morning, Ryan tried to distract from the blockbuster hearing by giving a presentation on House Republicans’ legislative accomplishments this year. When asked about Comey’s testimony in which he claimed that Trump asked him for loyalty and to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Ryan claimed that Trump didn’t know better.

“The president is new at this,” Ryan said. “He’s new to government. And so he probably wasn’t steeped into the long going protocols that established the relationships between DOJ, FBI, and White Houses.”

When a reporter questioned why that’s an “acceptable excuse,” given that Trump has a staff and counsel that should have been informed, Ryan reiterated that Trump did not know what he was doing.

“He’s new at government,” Ryan said. “Therefore I think he is learning as he goes.”

So the Russian Usurper creates a mess and the gunsel has to clean up after him.

Sorry, another obscure reference. What’s a gunsel?

You know, from a certain angle Paul Ryan does look like a Wilmer.

The history of Vladimir Putin

This is why he needed to knock Hillary Clinton out of the presidency and why he’s keeping his little pony in check:

You think the pony isn’t obeying orders?

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday intensified his accusations that NATO allies were not spending enough on defense and warned of more attacks like this week’s Manchester bombing unless the alliance did more to stop militants.

In unexpectedly abrupt remarks as NATO leaders stood alongside him, Trump said certain member countries owed “massive amounts of money” to the United States and NATO — even though allied contributions are voluntary, with multiple budgets.

His scripted comments contrasted with NATO’s choreographed efforts to play up the West’s unity by inviting Trump to unveil a memorial to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States at the new NATO headquarters building in Brussels.

“Terrorism must be stopped in its tracks, or the horror you saw in Manchester and so many other places will continue forever,” Trump said, referring to Monday’s suicide bombing in the English city that killed 22 people, including children.

“These grave security concerns are the same reason that I have been very, very direct … in saying that NATO members must finally contribute their fair share,” Trump said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg defended Trump, saying that although he was “blunt” he had “a very plain and clear message on the expectations” of allies.

But one senior diplomat said Trump, who left the leaders’ dinner before it ended to fly to Italy for Friday’s Group of Seven summit, said the remarks did not go down well at all.

“This was not the right place or time,” the diplomat said of the very public harangue. “We are left with nothing else but trying to put a brave face on it.”

In another unexpected twist, Trump called on NATO, an organization founded on collective defense against the Soviet threat, to include limiting immigration in its tasks.

And Trump did say that the United States “will never forsake the friends who stood by our side” but NATO leaders had hoped he would more explicitly support the mutual defense rules of a military alliance’s he called “obsolete” during his campaign.

Instead, he returned to a grievance about Europe’s drop in defense spending since the end of the Cold War and failed to publicly commit to NATO’s founding Article V rule which stipulates that an attack on one ally is an attack against all.

“Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying for their defense,” Trump said, standing by a piece of the wreckage of the Twin Towers.

“This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States, and many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years,” Trump said as the other leaders watched.

Nicholas Burns, a former long-time diplomat and ambassador to NATO from 2001-2005, now a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, said every U.S. president since Harry Truman had pledged support for Article V and that the United States would defend Europe.

You undermine NATO, you give Putin more power.

Thanks, pump truppets.

The Manchurian Cheeto

Remind me again, who was the threat to national security in the 2016 presidential election?

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.

“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

Obviously, this is how we got to this point:

I mean, do you have a better explanation?