Trump Is Achieving Putin’s Goal Of Driving A Wedge Between The U.S. And Its Allies

Thanks to Donald Trump, the happiest man in the world right now is Vladimir Putin.

In a post that was written before the events of this weekend, Jonathan Chait notes that President Trump is accomplishing something that Vladimir Putin, and before him the leaders of the Soviet Union, has long wanted:

One of Russia’s principal foreign-policy goals for decades has been to split the United States from is allies. Whether by accident or by design, President Trump appears intent on bringing that dream to fruition.

The most immediate theater of Western disarray is today’s G7 meeting in Canada. Trump has been fomenting a trade war, hurling wild and largely groundless accusations at America’s allies. “Why isn’t the European Union and Canada informing the public that for years they have used massive Trade Tariffs and non-monetary Trade Barriers against the U.S. Totally unfair to our farmers, workers & companies,” he demands. “Take down your tariffs & barriers or we will more than match you!”


But trade is merely a symptom of a larger rearrangement of American alienation from its partners. The West has attempted to prevail upon Trump to retain, in some form, a series of agreements he inherited: the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris climate agreement, and the Iran nuclear deal. In every instance the negotiations foundered on Trump’s allergy to compromise and immunity to reason. You can’t negotiate a climate plan with a person who considers climate science a Chinese hoax any more than you can negotiate a trade deal with somebody who believes Canada must be punished for the War of 1812.

The mutual loathing contains both a personality component and a structural component. One by one, Trump’s personal relationship with the leader of each major U.S. ally has been fatally poisoned. Angela Merkel, whom Trump had repeatedly taunted and likened to Hillary Clinton during his campaign, was the first major leader to give up on Trump. “It’s difficult to overstate just how enraged Germany is about Trump,” reports Matthew Karnitschnig. Trump’s allies tell one British newspaper he “has grown frustrated with Theresa May’s ‘school mistress’ tone.” (May publicly corrected Trump’s circulation of fake videos blaming Muslims for violence.) Trump “has griped periodically both about German Chancellor Angela Merkel — largely because they disagree on many issues and have had an uneasy rapport — as well as British Prime Minister Theresa May, whom he sees as too politically correct,” his advisers tell the Washington Post.

Macron, who has bent over backwards to flatter and placate Trump, has found his efforts unrewarded. A recent phone call between the two was “terrible,” a source tells CNN. “Macron thought he would be able to speak his mind, based on the relationship. But Trump can’t handle being criticized like that.”

It’s not as if Trump is unable to get along with anybody. He has drawn our country closer to a variety of despots: in the Gulf states, North Korea, China, and of course Russia. There is an element of personality involved here. Trump admires strongmen. “Who are the three guys in the world he most admires?” a Trump adviser told the Post last year. “President Xi [Jinping] of China, [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and Putin. They’re all the same guy.”

Relatedly, strongmen have the ability to deal with Trump in what is euphemistically described as “transactional” terms. China spent hundreds of millions of dollars enhancing the value of a Trump property, and in turn was quickly granted a reprieve for a telecommunications firm that had broken American law. “Those regimes take a transactional approach. Many American allies have relied on appeals to reason, data and shared values,” reports Politico, which also quotes a former Trump official helpfully explaining, “If you’re not a despot, you can’t really be transactional.” This clarifies the euphemism, because of course a democratic leader can be transactional. Democratic countries negotiate transactions all the time. What they can’t do is hand out bribes.


“Senior government officials in Washington, London, Berlin, and other European capitals” tell Susan Glasser ”they now worry that Trump may be a greater immediate threat to the alliance than even authoritarian great-power rivals, such as Russia and China.” Trump might be a greater threat to the West than Putin. Worse, he might be, in a sense, the very same threat.

To be fair, of course, driving a wedge between the United States and our allies has been something that leaders of the nation now known as Russia have dreamed about, and worked for, long before Vladimir Putin came along. Virtually from the beginning of the Cold War, the Soviet Union did everything it could to foment division between the United States and Western Europe. They did this via propaganda, surreptitiously supporting left-leaning political parties, and helping to foment protest movements in Europe at various times throughout the years between the beginning of the Cold War and the end of the Soviet Union. Often, they were able to do it by exploiting the mistakes that the United States made on the world stage, such as the Vietnam War, which led to as many widespread protests in Europe as it did in the United States. In the 1980s, we saw it manifest itself in the form of protests that attempted to block the installation of medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe to counter a threat already presented by the introduction of such weapons by the Warsaw Pact. Throughout it all, the Soviets tried to do everything they could to undermine the NATO alliance and the ties between the United States and Europe.

As it turns out, of course, those efforts proved to be unsuccessful. Though they have been tested at times, the alliances that the United States developed with Western Europe, Asian nations such as Japan and South Korea, and, of course, our neighbor to the north in Canada proved resilient. Ultimately, those alliances prevailed over a Warsaw Pact that was built and maintained by a combination of dictatorship and fear that the Soviets would act as they did in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 and over a Soviet Union that was held together by essentially the same forces. While many wondered what would happen to this international order after the end of Cold War, it has, if anything, proven to be even more resilient over the years, and that has benefited the United States both economically in the form of international trade and in terms of our national security. As I’ve pointed out before, the number of times that our allies have supported us over the years is incalculable, with perhaps the two greatest examples of that coming during the Persian Gulf War and the response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th.

As the events of this weekend in Canada show, though, Donald Trump is succeeding where the Soviets failed, and, intentionally or not, he’s handing a gift to Vladimir Putin and, to no small extent, Xi Jinping. Far better than any Soviet-era propaganda campaign could have hoped, Donald Trump has succeeded in opening a chasm not only between the United States and Europe, but between the United States and Canada thanks to a tariff scheme that is, if anything, even more idiotic and ill-advised than the infamous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act that preceded the Great Depression. His abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership brought an end to what should have been a successful effort to create an economic community that could resist dominance by China. And his twin decisions to walk away from the Paris Climate Accords and the nuclear deal with Iran have created yet another stark area of dispute between the United States and our closest and, until now, most loyal allies.

For those who wondered why Russia may have wanted to interfere in the 2016 election in a way that helped Donald Trump, we now have our answer. In seventeen months, Donald Trump has done more damage to America’s international alliances than the Soviets could have ever dreamed of, and it will inevitably inure to the benefit of Russia and China. Meanwhile, as I noted this morning, we’re left wondering if these alliances we’ve built up since the end of World War Two will be there the next time we need them. The way Trump is going, the answer to that question is only becoming increasingly doubtful.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Europe, National Security, Politicians, Russia, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds 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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. teve tory says:

    “Why isn’t the European Union and Canada informing the public that for years they have used massive Trade Tariffs and non-monetary Trade Barriers against the U.S. Totally unfair to our farmers, workers & companies,” he demands. “Take down your tariffs & barriers or we will more than match you!”

    Average tariff rates charged by G-7 nations:
    USA: 1.6%
    EU: 1.6%
    UK: 1.6%
    Italy: 1.6%
    Germany: 1.6%
    France: 1.6%
    Japan: 1.4%
    Canada: 0.8%


  2. PJ says:

    @teve tory:
    fake. news.

  3. teve tory says:

    Yeah that data’s from the Failing World Bank 😛

  4. PJ says:

    @teve tory:
    I understand that they are all Globalists.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    As any number of people have asked, if Trump had promised Putin that he would do everything he could to weaken the U. S. and the West, what would Trump do that he’s not doing?

  6. James in Bremerton says:

    In short, treason.

  7. CSK says:

    Trump said that “something happened a while ago where Russia is no longer in” the G-7.

    It was the annexation of the Crimea, you moron. Or, to quote Rex Tillerson, you fu*king moron.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    I wish I’d kept a list of people who told me two years ago that I was hysterical when I warned that Trump is a traitor, that he serves Putin, that he’s a criminal in addition to being a nasty, small-minded cretin. Or else it was dismissed as hyper-partisanship. Trump is exactly what I said he was, he’s behaving exactly as I said he would, and his defenders are crawling through pig sht rather than admit they were wrong, and are now simply rationalizing treason because they are too weak to admit what they secretly know is true.

    Trump is a traitor. He is Putin’s man. He is for sale. He is a criminal. He is an enemy of the United States who has already done far more damage to this country than Al Qaeda ever managed.

  9. An Interested Party says:

    Steve Schmidt certainly calls it correctly

    TRUMP disgraced the Presidency and the United States at the G-7 summit. From his slovenly appearance to his unpreparedness, ignorance and arrogance, he beclowned himself. The Republican majority is filled with cowards who are servile supplicants to the most unfit POTUS ever

    I think it’s time we give Vladimir Putin his due. He is clearly the greatest intelligence agent —ever . He has engineered the unraveling of the western alliance, fidelity to democracy in the United States and the severing of the UK from the EU. It’s a remarkable achievement

  10. CSK says:

    Jennifer Rubin tore Trump about six new ones today in the WaPo. Sample quote: “…none of Trump’s predecessors were dim-witted enough to give the ghoulish dictator of North Korea a public-relations triumph. Oh, and they managed not to get into fights with Canada.

  11. MBunge says:

    This place has turned into such a den of self-gratification that I’m surprised you don’t have to prove you’re over 18 before viewing the site.


  12. michael reynolds says:

    Is that your admission that we’re right and you’re wrong? Because I don’t see how else to interpret it. And in case you’re at all confused, @Bung: you are wrong. You’ve been wrong all along. Trump is a fucking disaster and you know it. The only suspense now is around when you’ll admit it.

  13. grumpy realist says:

    @MBunge: What will Trump have to do for you to admit that he’s a disaster? Or are you going to be like the Brexiters in the U.K., smugly going over the cliff just so that you can say “we’re not listening to ANYBODY!!!” ? (The fact that the U.K. is now looking towards the high chance of having flight, medication, and food imports cut off after March 31st, 2019, plus a renewal of The Troubles in Ireland, doesn’t seem to keep the Tories or Labour from continuing stampeding down the path over the cliff.)

    How much pain has to be inflicted upon you before you admit your stupidity?

  14. Ben Wolf says:

    Often, they were able to do it by exploiting the mistakes that the United States made on the world stage, such as the Vietnam War, which led to as many widespread protests in Europe as it did in the United States.

    Yeah, those three million dead Vietnamese were like, totally a boo-boo. Nevermind the Gulf of Tonkin Incident appears, from all historical evidence, to have been staged, or that we’d been helping the French to resubjugate the Vietnamese since the Eisenhower Administration.

    Napalming children and using chemical weapons against pregnant women was just a misunderstanding. This could happened to anyone:

  15. KM says:

    @grumpy realist:

    How much pain has to be inflicted upon you before you admit your stupidity?

    ALL OF IT. They’re the people that keep smoking their their stomas because no doctor or cancer is going to make them stop. They’re the miners that refuse free training for new positions because damnit, they were born miners and they’ll die miners and why the hell can’t they find jobs? It’s not they they can’t learn or change – it’s they very deliberately won’t. As noted on the “blew up the G7” thread, the picture of Trump’s stubborn, childish pout is “why they love him”. Sheer cussedness is going to ruin this country in a way our enemies could only dream of. They really will choose to self-destruct rather then concede an inch of ground. It’s very hard for rational people to grasp this kind of pig-headed, stick-necked “pride”.

    When I was still taking clients, I saw a surprising amount of Boomers who’s family sent them for incontinence issues. Not biologically-based ones, mind you, but the fact that the person in question would willingly wet themselves and whatever they were sitting on rather then wear “diapers”. No amount of telling them these were necessary hygiene products for legit medical issues worked. They were “diapers”, they were for babies and they’d rather piss themselves in public then put one on. It was less humiliating to them to walk around with a permanent urine smell (“nobody can smell it, you’re crazy!”), visible stained and ruined clothes (“It’ll wash, nobody will noticed!”) or be tossed out of a place for ruining furniture (“what’s the big deal, they can throw it out”) then to take a simple step that was a a crushing blow to their sense of self. They’re also pushing responsibility on to the rest of the world so it’s on you to deal with the cleanup. You get to deal with the smell, the cleaning bill and the sheer disgustingness of it all and it gives them a smug little thrill that they’ve ruined your day along with theirs. You can’t reason with that kind of mentality – you can only work around it to mitigate the damage and save your couch.

    Right now, America is torn between people totally OK with not wearing their Depends because FU that’s why and people just trying to save as much of the furniture as possible. Defiance is only a virtue when there’s something worth defying – otherwise it’s rank stupidity but you’ll never get them to understand that.