Independent Russian journalist Andrei Soldatov and I joined BBC Radio 5 Live on Sunday morning to discuss the prospects for relations between US and Russia — and the effect on the rest of the world — of President-elect Donald Trump’s admiration and desire for alliance with the “very smart” Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Both of us agreed on the challenges of evaluating the “unpredictable” Trump — and for Soldatov, the author of The Red Web, the unpredictable Putin — and of the risks of the President-elect’s approach.
I went farther in my concerns, apologizing that I could not bring better tidings on New Year’s Day:
The idea of Trump allying with Putin against his own intelligence services, against the American military — this is Trump doing something unprecedented, almost going out there on his own.
We are in unpredictable times because President Trump will be unpredictable. I think immediately we will find an argument almost immediately within the American Administration where many in the military, the intelligence services, and the State Department are going to try to stand up to him. And I think it is going to lead to uncertainty and perhaps even chaos in US foreign policy at a very, very difficult time for the world.
To the question, “Does Trump have a big geopolitical strategic game?”:
As academics and historians, we look for these great geopolitical theories and sometimes we don’t get to the obvious: Donald Trump is a narcissist who loves Donald Trump.
And because he has been courted by Russia, by the Soviet Union since the 1980s and because — quite frankly — he or some around him are probably implicated in the Russian interference in the US elections, that narcissim and that investment means that he is on a course which is about him personally, rather than any coherent foreign policy.
Answering, “Should we in the UK be concerned?”:
During the Cold War and after, the idea was that no matter how difficult were with the Soviet Union and then Russia, you had a measure of stability through political and military strength in US relations with Europe and NATO.
Trump is throwing all that to the wind.