The Daily Beast reports: Donald Trump’s oft-stated admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin isn’t just about macho admiration or authoritarian envy. It’s more in the spirit of a locker-room rivalry, a matter of camaraderie and competition — and to some extent deterrence. Searching for an analogy, one thinks of the way Russia-friendly U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrbacher once reportedly arm wrestled with Putin to decide who really won the Cold War. (One should note that Rohrbacher lost.)
Trump’s frenemy strategy — or ambivalence, it’s hard to know which — may account for why he went from asking aloud on Twitter in 2013 before the Miss Universe Pageant, will Putin “become my new best friend?” to saying during the candidates’ debate on Oct. 19, “I don’t know Putin. I have never met Putin. He is not my best friend”—prompting a lot of weepy Putin memes on social media.
While Trump’s business dealings with Russia and his foreign policy advisors’ ties to Russia have been intensely scrutinized by the media and now the FBI, evidence of direct Russian manipulation of Trump with the intent of affecting the U.S. election has been elusive.
The Russian leadership’s own statements and the Russian domestic media and English-language propaganda outlets have been easier to document. But even those organs are careful to keep at least a semblance of balanced reporting on the U.S. presidential campaign, while Putin and top officials have repeatedly stressed their neutrality. [Continue reading…]