One wonders if the West is getting finlandised. For those of you too young to know, or too old to remember this term, it refers to the USSR’s post-war relationship with Finland.
The country managed to retain her nominal independence, but nominal was the operative word. The Soviets effectively controlled Finland’s government, planting their agents into key posts and exercising veto powers over state appointments.
While still technically part of the West, Finland had to do Russia’s bidding in her foreign and trade policy, while refraining from joining any anti-Soviet alliances, such as Nato.
Now one gets a distinct impression that Col. Putin is seeking a similar arrangement with other Western countries, emphatically including the USA.
The poison spreading from the Kremlin has already infected the Trump administration, in my view incurably. This, regardless of whether or not the president himself is directly implicated in questionable, possibly illegal, dealings with Putin’s kleptofascist junta.
Since no prima facie evidence of any such involvement has been presented, the good tradition of Western legality demands that Trump be considered innocent. However, this side of a court of law, one is allowed to speculate, and no disbelief needs to be suspended to realise that, even if Trump isn’t guilty, he’s as good as.
Why else has he densely surrounded himself with those whose links with a hostile power range from inappropriate to criminal? Why else has he refrained from uttering a single word against Putin, while singing his numerous praises? Why else hasn’t he introduced tougher sanctions on Russia after her attempts to subvert the American electoral process came to light?
Once again, even assuming that Trump himself is squeaky clean, he’s in the very least guilty of a criminally negligent personnel policy. This has already turned him into a lame duck president, unable to push any of his flagship policies through Congress – this in spite of his party having a majority in both Houses.
Meanwhile, things are going from bad to worse. Three of Trump’s closest advisers, Carter Page, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn have had to resign in disgrace. Secretary of State Tillerson and Attorney General Sessions are under suspicion, for the same reason.
And yesterday Mike Dubke, the White House PR chief, had to resign under a cloud painted the colours of the Russian flag. The same cloud is hanging over the heads of Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus, press secretary Sean Spicer and, above all, Trump’s éminence grise and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Kushner had a hush-hush meeting with Sergei Gorkov, a career KGB officer seconded, along with many of his colleagues, to the Russian financial industry. (Gorkov personifies yet another reason I admire Putin so much: the good colonel has managed to create history’s unique government, formed by a fusion of secret police and organised crime.)
Allegedly the purpose of the friendly get-together was to establish a secret communication link bypassing official government channels. What it was in reality is anyone’s guess, but even the alleged purpose, if proved, ought to suffice for a summary sacking or worse.
And even Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, is about to be subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee after his refusal to supply records of his own contacts with Putin’s jolly friends.
At this rate Trump is soon going to run out of staff. How long before he also runs out of friends on the Hill and in the Republican National Committee?
At some point, Republicans will figure out that Trump is a liability and that, compared to him, Nixon was a valuable asset even at the height of Watergate. They’ll then realise that keeping Trump on may make the party unelectable for a generation, which would be a tragedy for the country, the world and – most important to that lot – their own careers.
Are Trump’s own antennae beginning to twitch? His line of work requires no deep intellect, but it does place a premium on a finely attuned self-preservation instinct. Leaving quietly and of his own accord may be his best bet, avoiding an explosive scandal complete with impeachment if not a criminal charge.
For the time being, he could leave with his head held high, proud of the invaluable service he rendered his country: keeping Hillary out of the White House. Yet that exit door may be slammed shut at any moment.
As to Col. Putin, he does what the KGB, whatever it’s called at the time, has always done: creating troubled waters all over the world, undermining the West’s unity, whipping up pro-Kremlin propaganda, subverting everything subvertable, compromising everything compromisable, employing every old trick from the repertoire of the cloak-and-dagger arts and quite a few new ones, such as electronic sabotage.
The difference is that these days it’s not the KGB that serves the government, but vice versa. The KGB is the government, which is made clear even by that sinister organisation’s presence in Russia’s ruling elite: 80 per cent of it have backgrounds similar to Gorkov’s.
Those who say that Putin’s Russia presents a much greater danger than the Islamic State are absolutely right. As are those who lament that the West seems incapable of confronting this threat with intelligence and courage.