NYRB's look at how Trump will rule observes warily that "Over the last few days, concerns about some kind of a hidden alliance between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have exploded:"
There is the president-elect with his apparently fawning regard for the Russian leader. There are Trump's top cabinet picks, with their unusual Russian ties: as national security advisor, Lt. General Mike Flynn, who has met Putin and done paid events for a Kremlin-sponsored TV station; and as secretary of state, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who has done billions of dollars of business in Russia and received an award from Putin. And then there is the revelation, from the CIA, that Russia may have actively interfered in the US election to get Trump elected.
The piece notes that, of course, "There is still much we don't know about how Trump will rule:"
But in the month since his election, some characteristic patterns have emerged--and they bear some instructive similarities to the style Putin has practiced over many years. Here are a few of them:
- Lying is the message. It's not just that both Putin and Trump lie, it is that they lie in the same way and for the same purpose: blatantly, to assert power over truth itself. [...]
- The media is the mirror. Trump, like Putin, has a demonstrably thin skin and short temper when it comes to being criticized by journalists. [...]
- Taking charge of a boring world. The real-estate magnate and the KGB agent share a peculiar trait: both seem to be lazy and uninterested in the world they want to dominate. [...]
- Interests rather than priorities. Attempts to decipher the process by which Trump is choosing his cabinet have stumbled over the usual question: What are the incoming president's priorities? [...]
- A president behind enemy lines. Many of Trump's cabinet picks have one thing in common: they are opposed to the very mission of the agencies they have been chosen to lead. [...]
- The chosen one. When I published a biography of Putin in 2012, some American reviewers criticized the book for asserting that Putin was merely an "ordinary man [whom voters could invest] with whatever they wanted to see in him." I argued that an unqualified man of limited intelligence had by accident come to rule a nuclear power. That simply does not happen, some reviewers claimed. [...]
"It does," he writes--and not only in Russia.