Trump Assisting Putin In His War On Liberal Democracy

Whether he knows it or not, Donald Trump is assisting the Russian leader in his goal of undermining the foundational institutions of democracy and freedom.

As Steven Taylor noted over the weekend, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with the Financial Times that the idea of western liberal democracy, which has been the foundation of government in the United States since the Declaration of Independence, and the foundation of government in the western world since at least the end of World War Two, was obsolete:

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview published on Thursday that liberal values were obsolete because they had been rejected by the majority of the people in Western nations.

Putin told the Financial Times newspaper that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had made a cardinal mistake by adopting a liberal policy towards immigration from the Middle East.

“The liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done. The migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants must be protected. What rights are these? Every crime must have its punishment,” Putin said in the interview.

“So, the liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population,” he said.

Putin said Russia is not homophobic, but that a Western willingness to embrace homosexuality and gender fluidity seemed excessive to him.

“Traditional values are more stable and more important for millions of people than this liberal idea, which, in my opinion, is really ceasing to exist.”

When he was speaking of “western liberal democracy,” Putin was quite obviously referring to the general values that govern in the United States and the rest of the western world when it comes to the relationship between the state and the citizenry. Politically, it basically means some form of representative democracy that includes protections for the rights of minorities, the Rule of Law as represented by a judiciary independent from political control (although this varies in implementation depending on a nation’s legal system), the separation of church and state, and the ability of the people to change the political system through the ballot box as well as speaking out against the government without fear of repression. On a broader cultural level, it has also come to mean openness to different lifestyles and opinions and the separation of society from undue influence by potentially tyrannical governments and churches.

It’s not surprising that Putin would be opposed to western liberalism. Indeed, one can make a good argument that ever since he came to power after Boris Yeltsin resigned the Russian Presidency in 1999 that Putin has been at war with western liberalism. His comments over the years about the state of post-Soviet Russia make it clear that he believes that the introduction of those western values. which arguably began with Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost and perestroika, is what led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and its empire in Eastern Europe. As a result, he has spent the better part of the last two decades at war with that idea both by essentially eradicating it inside Russia itself and via the interference in western elections. Indeed, in the past, I’ve argued that his goal in interfering in the 2016 election in the United States, and in subsequent elections in Europe, was to create chaos in order to undermine the faith of the populations of those nations in its governing institutions. His latest comments are just another example of a war he’s been waging since he rose to power at the start of the 21st Century.

Asked to respond to the comments by the Russian President during the press conference he held after the end of the G-20 Summit, President Trump gave a response that can only be described as utterly bizarre:

When a reporter asked if the president agreed with Putin’s suggestion, in a recent newspaper interview, that “Western-style liberalism” was in decline, Trump had another thing in mind.

He criticized the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, which he said are “sad to look at” because they are “run by liberal people.”

With that, the president ended his session with the room full of journalists and headed to the airport.

From his response, it is clear that President Trump believed that President Putin was referring to liberalism in the context of the American political divide, and particularly to political liberalism arising from California and other such parts of the west coast where Democrats tend to dominate the political scene. Obviously, this is not what Putin meant and the fact that the President of the United States clearly doesn’t know what “liberal democracy” means is both disheartening and not surprising.

Given his affinity for dictators and the rather obvious contempt that he holds for America’s allies, by which I, of course, mean the major players in what can broadly be called “western liberal democracy,” it’s not at all surprising that the President has no idea what “liberal democracy” actually is or why the Russian President’s war against it is so pernicious. Indeed, based on his own contempt for the rule of law and Freedom Of The Press, something I’ve detailed here, here, here, here, and here, it’s fairly clear on which side he falls in the battle. So, not only do we have a President who doesn’t understand what “western liberal democracy” is, we have one who is actively assisting in helping to undermine to advance his own political interests.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, Middle East, National Security, , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. reid says:

    Trump’s response isn’t at all bizarre when you understand that he’s ignorant. Intellectually, he’s a void and has been all of his life.

  2. CSK says:

    I wonder how much effort it took Putin to restrain his hysterical cackling?

  3. steve says:

    “Trump’s response isn’t at all bizarre when you understand that he’s ignorant. ”

    Aww come on, let’s be fair. Trump can still remember the big lines from the last book he read. Who can forget “See Dick. See Dick run” or other great lines like “See Jane. See Jane jump.”


  4. CSK says:

    Seriously: Every time you think “this is it; Trump can’t possibly embarrass himself or us more than he already has,” he does.

  5. SenyorDave says:

    “the fact that the President of the United States clearly doesn’t know”
    Can we use some sort of acronym for this statement so we can shorthand it? Because that statement applies to almost any subject. After all, he think sthe busing debate is about whether children walk to school. I think he is more ignorant than almost any adult I know.

  6. Kathy says:

    Tom a certain extent, Dennison’s answer isn’t that much more idiotic than “We are a republic and not a democracy.”

  7. Jay L Gischer says:

    I’m afraid lots of Republicans will brush this off somehow. Maybe they will join in the attack on California, it’s a common refrain among conservatives. Meanwhile, both SF and LA are insanely popular places to live, which is what makes them so expensive.

    Even 10 years ago, even five years ago, I could not imagine any Republican or conservative brushing off such comments by Putin or such a response from the president. But here we are.

    We’re in the fight of our lives. This turn of events has hurt us far more than any physical attack.

  8. Teve says:

    @Kathy: “We are a republic and not a democracy.” is a Conversation Ender, like “evolution is just a theory 😛

  9. CSK says:

    @Jay L Gischer: So far the Trumpkins appear to be blithely ignoring this, which is what they generally do when he says something so imbecilic even they can’t justify it.

  10. gVOR08 says:

    Putin’s comment was really just stirring the pot on immigration in western Europe. I’m not at all sure Putin cares about “Western democracy”. He wants to weaken the US, Germany, the UK, France, etc. All are liberal democracies. If Putin saw Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea as rivals, he’d be trying to undercut Marxist communism.

    That said, our feeble reaction to his meddling with our elections and our President* must give him some impression our system is weak.

  11. Jay L Gischer says:

    @CSK: Well, and it’s probably the case that many of them will never hear about it. Because others of them are ignoring it and/or brushing it off. “Trump is fine” they will say. “I’m feeling ok about him”. Or, “It doesn’t mean anything”.

  12. Gustopher says:


    Trump’s response isn’t at all bizarre when you understand that he’s ignorant. Intellectually, he’s a void and has been all of his life.

    Was this before or after the answer he gave about busing, where he missed the racial part and came down in favor of school busses existing?

  13. Gustopher says:


    “We are a republic and not a democracy.” is a Conversation Ender, like “evolution is just a theory

    If only that were true. I haven’t met one of those people who then shuts up.

  14. Kathy says:


    Can we use some sort of acronym for this statement so we can shorthand it?

    We should, shouldn’t we?

    What I propose is that when someone says something both ignorant and, therefore, embarrassing, we should say he “made a complete Trump out of himself.”

  15. reid says:

    @Gustopher: I thought about mentioning that, too. Utterly embarrassing. Years of laying the groundwork deriding intelligence has led us to this moron.

  16. An Interested Party says:

    I’m afraid lots of Republicans will brush this off somehow.

    That’s one of the saddest things about all of this…we have irrefutable proof that this trash is an idiot and yet his supporters refuse to see and acknowledge the reality…you ever notice how both Putin and McConnell have that sick little grin on their faces, knowing that they have power due to the disgrace in the White House…

  17. Teve says:

    @reid: Anti-Intellectualism in American Life was published in 1963 and is 434 pages long. Were someone to write a part 2, covering 1964 to the present, I suspect it would be longer than those books written by that daydreaming french guy who like those little cookies so much.

  18. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Trump Assisting Putin In His War On Liberal Democracy

    Yeah… well, at least our intelligence community realized this a while ago, and have begun to treat him as a risk.

    It all keeps piling up, but the GOP has accepted watching him ruin our country in exchange for lower taxes on the megarich.

    When will too much actually be too much?

  19. Ken_L says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    I’m afraid lots of Republicans will brush this off somehow

    They don’t brush it off so much as pretend they never heard it. Their conception of political success is Democrats losing. They don’t try to justify what Trump says because they don’t see the point. It’s enough that he exists and thus they own the libs.

  20. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: I know it’s not original, but we could try “Mongo not know.”