When Donald Trump was more anti-NATO than Vladimir Putin

Michael Weiss writes: Michael Morrell, a former acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency, broke dramatically with the protocol of most ex-spies when he used spook parlance to describe Republican nominee Donald Trump as “an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation,” albeit in the course of endorsing Hillary Clinton for president.

The colloquial term for the sort of person Morrell was talking about is “useful idiot,” someone enlisted in the Kremlin’s cause through sympathy, or shared interests, or, indeed, ignorance, without actually intending to be a pawn. But, as Putin certainly knows, the problem with useful idiots is that they tend to be insecure and erratic, whereas witting agents are tutored in how to be disciplined and self-controlled.

Trump is too illogical and self-contradictory to be of much use to a hostile foreign power except as a naturally occurring battering ram against the very institutions and beliefs that power would like to see weakened or destroyed. Trump’s opponent (whom Putin assuredly does not want to see inhabit the White House) and U.S. democracy at large are the truer objects of a Russian state-run information and cyber-espionage program. That Trump’s vulgar and demoralizing campaign is ripping apart America on the path to making it “great again” is simply an added bonus for the former KGB colonel.

Without dismissing the gravity of the Trump-Putin alignment, what our reporting makes clear is that the Republican does genuinely admire the Russian, but the feeling is not necessarily mutual. Putin has been discreet, if not cryptic, in his characterization of Trump. (See the next installation in this series for more.) One might say the relationship between the two is that of an amateur authoritarian taking cues from an aloof and bemused professional, but the performance delivered, to any outside observer, looks more like an oblivious farce than a credible imitation. [Continue reading…]

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