And so to my third blog contemplating the dystopian fantasy that Donald Trump will regain the White House at the next US presidential election and that Vladimir Putin will still be in firm control of the Kremlin when that happens. As Simon Kuper wrote in the Financial Times magazine last month: “In 2024, a rounding error’s worth of extra votes making Trump president might upend geopolitics. An isolationist who has brooded over leaving Nato, he will be tempted to cut a ‘beautiful deal’ with this hero Vladimir Putin, potentially spelling ruin for the Baltics and Moldova [as well as for Ukraine”].
Indeed. Although right now that does not look likely to happen, or at least it seems more of a remote threat than when Kuper was writing just ahead of the American mid-term elections. Because what happened there was that the incumbent Democrat administration of Joe Biden performed vastly more successfully than anyone had envisaged, and specifically candidates endorsed by Trump were largely humiliated. Many people in the Republican party now see Trump as being the thing he despises more than anything else: he looks like a stone-cold loser.
It is by no mean clear that Rupert Murdoch’s Fox TV would disown Trump in any event as the Republican candidate at the next election, but if the Florida governor Ron DeSantis does run, as anticipated, that is likely to be where Murdoch directs his favours. He definitely does not believe in backing losers. Less than a week after the front page shown above, the New York Post greeted Trump’s announcement of his candidacy with the headline: “Florida Man Makes Announcement’. The story beneath described the previous president as a “Florida retiree” and an “avid golfer” (definitely true!) and said he was best known for “gold-plated lobbies and for firing people on reality television”. No mention of him having been the 45th President of the United States and putative leader of the free world.
Of course, Putin’s military operations in Ukraine have not panned out as planned. His failures there are seen as the reason why he recently cancelled his annual press conference and his yearly ‘conversation with the people’ – both significant propaganda elements in his control of the country. It’s probably not going to happen but there is, according to a story in The Times yesterday, a scheme afoot under the name ‘Noah’s Ark’ which would lead to Putin’s evacuation from Russia, perhaps to South America, in the event that he might be ousted from power.
So the odds presently look like the devilish duo will not get the opportunity to reprise their political love-in. But by way of a reminder of the way they work, I refer you to Bill Browder’s book Freezing Order, which is essentially about endemic corruption in Putin’s Russia. (The cover is shown on the home page.) At a press conference in Helsinki in July 2018, Trump infamously appeared to suggest he placed more credibility in the assurances of Putin than he did in the work of his own intelligence services. But for Browder, an American journalist, something else Trump uttered took his attention.
Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election (won by Trump), had just indicted 12 Russian intelligence operatives, charging them with said interference. Putin was asked if he would consider extraditing the dirty dozen to Washington. Instead of laughing or saying ‘no’, he suggested a deal might possible if “we can bring up Mr Browder in this particular case”. Trump’s reply was: “I think that’s an incredible offer.”
‘Chilling’ doesn’t do it justice.