Why is Donald Trump so keen to align himself with Vladimir Putin?

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Before Ronald Reagan became governor of California and President of the United States, he testified on the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) informing on the alleged seditious and treasonous activities of his communist colleagues in Hollywood. Hollywood communists were suspected by the HUAC and the FBI of spreading Soviet propaganda in the United States. They were effectively silenced through intimidation, defamation, and harassment.

Ironically, the same Republican Party that led the purge of ‘communists’ is now playing into the hands of the Kremlin’s great game to reconfigure Russian power in the coming decades. Vladimir Putin and his foreign policy advisors are following a policy that seeks to destabilise the European Union and NATO by supporting radical right political parties across Europe.

In 2014, I created this infographic for Tell MAMA demonstrating the dialogue between Russia and the far-right in Europe. For example, they funded Marine Le Pen’s Front National with loans totaling 40 million Euros.

Since then, Nigel Farage said that Western countries should not intervene in the Ukraine because Putin is on ‘our side’ in the war against ‘Islamic extremists’. The post-Brexit racist backlash made clear that Euroscepticism, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment go hand in hand.

Putin seems to be winning. And I fear if Donald Trump takes the presidency—which may happen —it’s game over.

Discrediting the Democrats and the unconscious Trump-Putin alliance

Donald Trump’s policy is designed to exploit the nativism, paranoia, Islamophobia, and racism pushed by the Tea Party during the Obama presidency. His fearmongering plays directly into Putin’s hands. But more than that, both Trump and Putin want to discredit Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.

The New York Times reported that Russian intelligence agencies breached the DNC and released the emails that have led to the latest crisis in the Democratic Party. This is entirely in the mutual interests of Putin and Trump. By releasing the emails, the hackers gave the impetus to the left-wing supporters of Bernie Sanders, some of whom are refusing to vote for Clinton, to continue to fracture the Democratic Party and discredit Clinton. Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff (CA), member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said: “Given Donald Trump’s well-known admiration for Putin and his belittling of NATO, the Russians have both the means and the motive to engage in a hack of the D.N.C. and the dump of its emails prior to the Democratic convention”.

Given Trump’s previous overtures to Putin and Moscow’s ‘long track record’ of ‘backing rightwing mavericks’, it should be no surprise that he recently welcomed Russian involvement. At a press conference in Florida, Trump said: ‘Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing…I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press’.

Progressives, the Democratic Party, and Donald Trump

In the post-Brexit climate and as we approach November’s election, we are unfortunately back in a time that cannot be encumbered by idealism. Sadly, it is a time to engage, as voters, in the realpolitik that characterised international relations until the 1990s. The reality is that Donald Trump’s election would impose an administration likely to play into Moscow’s strategic interests.

Putin wants Trump elected, just like he wanted Brexit to succeed, just like he wants to see the Front National take control of France.

As an Indian-American in Britain, I am cognizant that too much blood – British, American, and otherwise – has already been shed to keep Europe together and ensure a nominally tolerant neoliberal global system today. But worse still is the prospect of Russian hegemony in Europe and empowered Trumpism that might threaten to make the neoliberal present a relative utopia.

Despite its flaws, it seems Hillary Clinton’s campaign is the only viable hope that can resist the imposition of a new geopolitical order that will fracture alliances between Western countries. I will vote for Clinton on my absentee ballot because I won’t let my country be dictated by the delusions of the Republican base who probably do not even realise that they are bending to Putin’s interest. That does not represent the independence and self-reliance that characterises the Republicans that I have argued with for years. That means I have to hand power over someone whose neoliberal policies I firmly disagree with. I think that’s better than the alternative, and I’ll have to live with that decision. With Trump, we’ll have to worry about much more while Putin grins in the background.

My hopes that one day we might see highly regulated capitalisms and a much-expanded welfare states across the West are on hold. I recommend that voters in the US do the same. It’s a choice between neoliberalism and a regressive global order that we cannot name because we do not even know what it may look like. I worry that the stakes are too high for liberals, progressives, and leftists to consider a third party in this election or refuse to vote. Now is not the time to push a third party in the United States. Now is the time for us to come together with the neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party to quash Donald Trump and Putin’s entryism into the United States and the West.

Bharath Ganesh is the Research & Digital Projects Co-ordinator at Tell MAMA. Follow him @bganesh11.