When asked about ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump has seemed to have a simple and common-sense answer.
“I don’t know Putin,” the Republican presidential candidate said to Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton when asked about the Russian leader. “He said nice things about me. If we got along well, that would be good. If Russia and the United States got along well and went after (the Islamic State), that would be good.”
It’s the sort of statement that would seem to make sense in almost any setting. But a new report by the DC-based German Marshall Fund, a foreign policy think tank, casts doubt about not only whether it is correct, but also whether it is possible.
“In the coming years, the West should expect estrangement from Russia, at best, and hostilities, at worst,” said the report by Kristine Berzina, an expert at the organization. “The key question for European and U.S. leaders is whether they can commit to a policy that seeks not partnership or friendship but careful restraint.”
The author pointed out that beyond Trump, European leaders had planned to meet Putin recently and intended to bear gifts, at least in the sense of rolling back the economic sanctions that have been hurting the Russian economy in the wake of the 2014 invasion of Crimea in Ukraine.
“But in the weeks leading up to the meeting, the Kremlin broke a cease-fire in Syria, meddled in the U.S. presidential election, called off a cultural visit to France and practiced firing missiles near Estonia,” she wrote. “The country’s top diplomat even insulted both sides of the U.S. presidential race with vulgar language. Clearly, Russia is not interested in extending a friendly hand.”
As an example of Putin’s meddling in the U.S. elections, consider the interview that Russian nationalist, Putin ally and Duma member Vladimir Zhirinovsky gave to Reuters this month.
“Americans voting for a president on Nov. 8 must realize that they are voting for peace on planet Earth if they vote for Trump,” he said. “But if they vote for Hillary it’s war. It will be a short movie. There will be Hiroshimas and Nagasakis everywhere.”