How Putin “Won”

So about eight days into his first term and Trump has already managed to spark nationwide protests, rebellion within the government, a constitutional crisis, and he may have already committed an impeachable offense (apart from being utterly incompetent and unfit to serve in any public office whatsoever).

And while this was happening, there was a seriously escalation in the fighting around the town of Avdiivka in Ukraine. As a result, the government has been talking about evacuating the town’s population after Russian shelling knocked out its power and heating. When I was in Avdiivka, I’d been told that the town had lost water and power for a significant amount of time in the past, but as far as I know full evacuation was not mentioned. The situation now is most likely more serious due to the low temperature and the scale of the damage to the vital infrastructure. If authorities do decide to completely evacuate the town, this means the transfer of between 16,000 to 20,000 people.

Naturally, with all the Trump/Putin conspiracy theories still fresh in everyone’s minds, there’s a lot of speculation that this has something to do with the two presidents’ telephone conversation a few days ago. My take? Yes and no. Trump, who claimed that Putin would respect the United States if he were elected president, could have warned Putin about any provocative moves in Ukraine. He could have made it clear that escalation means increased consequences. While we don’t know what was said, it’s fairly safe to assume Trump issued no such warning to Putin. That is on Trump. But some kind of grand bargain in Ukraine? That’s unlikely.

It’s important to keep in mind the context of the recent fighting. The Russian forces have suffered several embarrassing setbacks, one of which was recently in Avdiivka. Naturally, they are thirsting for revenge and no doubt want to take back at least some of the territory they’d lost. Since this process started quite some time before the phone conversation, we can’t quite attribute the most recent escalation to something Trump told Putin. Again, if anything it was what he didn’t say to the Russian president.

That being said, let’s get one thing straight- Putin is benefiting from Trump being in office, and it’s not because they’re ideological blood brothers or because Putin has “kompromat” (blackmail material) on Trump.

During the election, when the Trump/Putin “bromance” became a meme, I gave an opinion as to what the Kremlin sees in Trump, and I think the past week’s events have tentatively confirmed that hypothesis. In short, I wrote that the Kremlin most likely sees Trump as the incompetent buffoon that he is, but more importantly they see him as a highly polarizing and controversial figure who will create so much scandal and discord with his domestic policies so as to distract him and much of the American establishment from foreign policy. It’s not that the truly intelligent people in the Kremlin believed that Trump would give them what they want, but rather he wouldn’t be able to stop them, and he’d keep anyone who might be able occupied as they react to his bumbling idiocy.

And look what we’ve got here? The orange moron almost immediately plunges the whole country into confusion to the point where pretty much the entire American media has forgotten that there’s a war going on in Europe which has killed nearly 10,000 people. Sweet deal for Putin.

But that’s not all! Trump’s clowning serves the Russian state media’s narrative that democracy is nothing but a corrupt circus everywhere. In reality, the infighting we see in the US government at the moment is actually a positive thing- it’s what proves our institutions and laws still matter more than the will of one deranged man in the Oval Office. But Russian state TV will spin this as the dreaded “chaos,” and disorder- both the opposites of the precious and holy “stability” which only Putin provides. In other words, they’ll portray it as an even bigger version of a Ukrainian Rada fistfight and tell their viewers that America is falling apart.

And what I cannot stress enough is that none of this requires Trump to be a true lover of Putin, and ideological soulmate, or an agent carrying out the Kremlin’s orders because he thinks they have footage of him getting pissed on by prostitutes (as though the release of such a tape could faze Trump). Trump just being Trump is all it takes.

If you’re still not convinced, look at it this way- suppose there’s a parallel universe Trump who’s totally identical to our Trump except for one difference. Instead of the praise of Putin and promises to better relations, he takes a hardline anti-Putin, anti-Russia stance. Now since this Trump does everything else the same, do you see him pushing aside everything that’s going on at the moment in order to make a firm statement about what went on in Ukraine in the past couple days? Would interrupt everything he’s been doing to start drawing up new sanctions? Of course not. Roughly ten days ago the guy was whining about how big his inauguration was, and now he’s in even more hot water.

In a way, this is even worse than if Trump were a pro-Putin agent. Today it’s Avdiivka, but in a few weeks some other part of the globe might ignite and meanwhile the president’s too busy explaining how he “never said” something that he’d actually said dozens of times on camera.

What to do? Well obviously Americans can’t stop their resistance now just to focus on Ukraine, Syria, or any other country, but it’s worth bringing those issues into the larger conversation. This is a president who campaigned on being a tough guy who would make dictators respect America. Instead he’s making them laugh and letting them do as they please. That needs to be added to the long list of Trump’s offenses.



51 thoughts on “How Putin “Won”

  1. AndyT

    On the other hand, isn’t protesters’ goodwill at odds with Russian media’s narrative?
    A lot of organized, committed people opposing their President – anathema!

    Ukraine’s people… well, they will have to rely on themselves – as they have already been doing, after all…

    Finally, despite its meetings with Alibaba’s CEO and the like, Trump still looks pretty anti-China – might he be thinking about a U.S.-Russian alliance against Beijing?

    I know hawks detest Russia, but China is a far more serious competitors, IMHO.

    1. sglover

      Hard to say, really, I was in the crowd at Dulles Saturday night. The way Trump “implemented” this stunt, it’s hard to separate police power plays from bureaucratic confusion.

      I’ve yet to see a nickel from Soros, by the way…..

      1. Jim Kovpak Post author

        And you never will see a cent from that deadbeat. I’ve been waiting years for payments from Soros, the CIA, the State Department, the FSB, Mossad, Pravy Sektor, the SBU, the Polish government…It’s ridiculous!

  2. gbd_crwx

    “and he may have already committed an impeachable offense (apart from being utterly incompetent and unfit to serve in any public office whatsoever).”

    Which one is this?

  3. Black_Rose

    Why should I be upset about Trump?

    Yes, I oppose anti-Muslim prejudice since it is irrational and unjustified. Islamic doctrine is no more illiberal and barbaric than parts of the Old Testament. Muslims on the whole are just as virtuous and malicious as Christians. However, I could imagine way worse than Trump’s pandering to the domestic right. I could imagine Clinton imposing a no-fly zone in Syria. I said to liberal friends that I would rather have a monkey as a President than Clinton, since Clinton would be a more competent imperialist than a monkey.

    I would rather have the domestic left complain about Trump’s illiberal policies, than to be embrace anti-Russian propaganda and clamor for a tougher stance against Russia. I don’t want any more wars, especially if they prop-up malevolent and odious regimes, such as Ukraine after the “revolution” or more accurately the fascist coup. That virulent anti-communist country is much worse than Trump’s domestic policies.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      The possibility of a no-fly zone in Syria is worse than a dictatorial president dismantling America’s institutions? No, sorry but this is nonsense.

      Also you claim that you’re against wars but you clearly support Putin’s imperialism and aggression in Ukraine. The “fascist coup” is just a fantasy that you use to justify his invasion.

      So here’s a deal- since the facts disprove the claim that Maidan was a fascist coup or any kind of coup, the next time you say or imply otherwise you’ll be banned.

      Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.

      1. Black_Rose

        I didn’t see that. Like the Treaty of Ghent.
        I don’t see how Putin is aggressive anymore than the US.

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Well yeah, if you swallow all those Russian media talking points and have no knowledge of what actually happened, I can understand that point of view.

        But yes, to a degree they are both aggressive. Here’s the difference between you and me though- I oppose aggression on BOTH sides.

      3. Black_Rose

        A no-fly zone is an escalation. It would entail the destruction of Syrian military assets. A no-fly zone should not be regarded as something trivial or facile.

        At the second presidential debate on Sunday, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton said: “I, when I was Secretary of State, advocated, and I advocate today, a no-fly zone and safe zone.” And if it wasn’t clear she actually meant it, she added: “We need some leverage with the Russians, because they are not going to come to the negotiating table for a diplomatic resolution unless there is some leverage over them.”

        What Clinton was advocating was a U.S.-led military intervention to stop Russian and Syrian warplanes bombing civilians in rebel-held areas like Aleppo, even if it meant clashing with Russia. That’s what a no-fly zone means.
        read more:

        NFZs involve destroying the air force and anti-aircraft weaponry of the country subject to them. Clinton herself has acknowledged that implementing the NFZ she advocates would entail the deaths of “a lot” of civilians. None of this is to minimize or rationalize the torture, mass killings, or severe sieges enacted by the Syrian state and its allies. The imminent question, however, is not, “Is the Syrian government good?”; it’s “Should America drop more bombs on Syria?”

        Given that the United States is currently killing civilians in several countries, with or without humanitarian pretenses, it’s absurd to entrust it with stopping the killing of Syrian civilians. America is prosecuting a war in Somalia and corpses are piling up in its latest round of bombing in Libya.

      4. Jim Kovpak Post author

        1. It was a suggested proposal.

        2. Turkey actually shot down a Russian plane, and we saw how that worked out.

        Hillary was actually qualified to be president, Trump isn’t qualified to be on a city council.


      ” I don’t want any more wars, especially if they prop-up malevolent and odious regimes, such as Ukraine after the “revolution” or more accurately the fascist coup.”

      You do realize that everybody – and I mean 100% – of the people reading this somewhat specialist blog realize how full of shit you and the long debunked putinist propaganda you are pushing here are?

    3. jonathan stromberg

      God wept.

      Trump has called for ‘Big, Beautiful Safe Zones’ in Syria, which are just another name for no fly zones.

      At the same time, we now have a goverment run by far right crazies such as Bannon who have been quoted as saying that the US and China are set for war within 5 to 10 years. Good luck with that.

      AND they are clammering to go after Iran, one of Russia’s major allies. Good luck with that too.

      The world is a MUCH more dangerous place now that Trump is in power.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Actually it is- Putin is commander in chief of his military. He ordered the invasion and annexation of Crimea, he ordered the invasion of Donbas, and he is apparently allowing his military to continue supplying the “rebels.”

      Maidan wasn’t a coup- Yanukovych ran away. The country wasn’t required to let him run it from across the border.

      We’re not going to debate about established facts.

      1. Black_Rose

        Allende (most likely) killed himself. Maybe if he fled, 9/11 wouldn’t be a “coup”.

        The US encouraged the imposition of a hostile government in Kyiv. Yanukovych said that he feared for his life. He offered the Maidan movement some concessions, but that further emboldened them as they threatened him to resign or else he would be overthrown forcefully.

        If there were no baleful Maidan, there would be no invasion.

        If Yanukovych fled to Donetsk, he may preside over a region loyal to him,while the the Western Ukraine against him. If he has charisma, he could be a leader in a civil war against the West by galvanizing the Russiophilic and anti-Maidan groups. Perhaps, he did not want to be the leader of the East in a civil war or realized that he lacked the charisma.

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        The fact that you’d compare this to Allende just speaks volumes about how ignorant you are not only about Ukraine, but Chile. Chile was a real coup, carried out as real coups are carried out.

        “The US encouraged the imposition of a hostile government in Kyiv. Yanukovych said that he feared for his life.”

        Incorrect. The post-Maidan government was no threat to Russia. In fact Ukraine maintained its non-bloc status until December 2014, after months of war and the annexation of the Crimea. Had Russia not annexed the Crimea and started a war in the Donbas, any anti-Russian sentiment would have quickly dissipated since people would be focusing more on the remaining corrupt politicians and the necessary reforms.

        “Yanukovych said that he feared for his life. He offered the Maidan movement some concessions, but that further emboldened them as they threatened him to resign or else he would be overthrown forcefully. ”

        Yanukovych can say what he wants, but the facts speak otherwise. The people who “threatened his life” were a tiny minority of the protesters. The main opposition parties did not want him to leave immediately.

        Plus it’s clear that he intended to leave before signing that.

        He fled to escape prosecution for years of corruption- it’s as simple as that.

        “If there were no baleful Maidan, there would be no invasion. ”

        Incorrect- if Putin hadn’t ordered his military to invade Ukraine there’d be no invasion. Stop victim blaming.

        This is like saying the US wouldn’t have invaded Vietnam were it not for the NLF insurgency. US policy made the NLF insurgency necessary.

        “If Yanukovych fled to Donetsk, he may preside over a region loyal to him,while the the Western Ukraine against him. If he has charisma, he could be a leader in a civil war against the West by galvanizing the Russiophilic and anti-Maidan groups. Perhaps, he did not want to be the leader of the East in a civil war or realized that he lacked the charisma.”

        Or maybe his whole story is utter bullshit and he was told to leave by Putin in order to create a justification for invasion.

        This certainly tracks since in September 2013 Russian envoy Sergei Glyazev warned Yanukovych that signing the EU agreement could lead to the loss of Crimea and armed separatism in the Donbas.

        Isn’t it a curious coincidence that that’s exactly what happened?

      3. Shalcker

        The people who “threatened his life” were a tiny minority of the protesters. The main opposition parties did not want him to leave immediately.

        All it takes to take life is one person with a gun or explosive, you don’t need “main opposition parties” for that.

        And considering how some of his former associates that remained in Ukraine ended up, with their string of suicides by shooting themselves in the back of the head or jumping from their high-rise flats in sudden “bouts of conscience”, it’s hard to see his fears as not at least partially justified.

      4. Jim Kovpak Post author

        “All it takes to take life is one person with a gun or explosive, you don’t need “main opposition parties” for that.”

        I’m sorry but this is plain cowardice. Besides, he was already preparing to leave several days before he did.

        This is utter nonsense.

      5. Shalcker

        I don’t think anyone sees Yanukovich as epitome of courage and integrity; he wouldn’t be out of power if he was.

        Yes, he was coward. That doesn’t make his personal fears somehow not justified.

      6. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Well when you hand in your resignation and run away, the country’s going to have to run some way or another, and that’s what they did.

      7. Shalcker

        Well, being coward he wanted to be sure, so he asked the only party willing and able to protect him to do that, and they did – in exchange for small contribution of authorizing Russian intervention in Crimea. I recall that being explained in detail in “Crimea – Year after” movie.

        С паршивой овци хоть шерсти клок, as the saying goes.

        If someone could guarantee his safety in Ukraine it could have turned out differently, but all-or-nothing principle of Ukrainian politics (which he practiced as well in regard of Tymoshenko) prevented such scenario. So he did sensible thing and fled. Thinking about Ukraine is nice and all but personal well-being comes first for Ukrainian politicians (as we also see from Poroshenko still not divesting from his properties).

        Painting such “transfers of power” as coups or… wait, i don’t remember what do you personally call it instead of coup? “Popular revolution”? Well, either way how it is named is largely irrelevant. Result is same either way – more corruption and more poverty.

      8. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Again, more victim blaming. Russia’s the aggressor, period.

        It’s a revolution, not a coup. Coups are carried out by small organized groups from within the power structure. They are not mass movements.

        Yanukovych brought Maidan on himself.

      9. Shalcker

        Those are not mutually exclusive.

        Small group of people ousted Yanukovich and were principal benefactors of his exile and power structure changes – those were the ones who did “coup”. I seem to recall mentions of Poroshenko and Turchinov personally looking for Yanukovich in Crimea, but being blocked by the fact that he hid in Russian army base.

        At the same time large group of people gets to protest injustice and ignore laws for a while because other parties (local and foreign) undermine willingness of those who should have stopped them. That is how “protest” grows into “revolution” – you just fan the flames and stop those who want to extinguish it.

      10. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Sorry but that’s not what happened. Yanukovych was preparing to leave long before he actually did. The opposition didn’t want him to resign or leave. The only people still calling for his ouster and occupying buildings didn’t have mass support. So no- it’s not a coup.

        Bottom line is- Putin invaded Ukraine.

      11. Shalcker

        When you oversimplify multi-month (if not multi-year) struggle between different parties and/or persons to one sentence as “opposition vs Yanukovich” (despite opposition never being single unified force, and that “Yatsenyuk-Klichko-Tyagnibok” being outright rejected with their Yanukovich deal as presented to Maidan), there are bound to be some disagreements remaining.

      12. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Well the opposition being fragmented, which I’m not disputing, that makes the claim that he was so afraid for his life even more suspect.

    2. Charles

      It is 100% Putin’s fault. He needs the nationalism to blame everyone but himself for a resource based economy where the resource value has diminished. I don’t understand how the Putinistas are so blind as to what is happening to their country. Putin has turned the country into a dictatorial kleptocracy. He controls the military, the propaganda apparatus, every major news organization, his critics usually wind up dead or in jail. He just tells the Russian citizenry that they have to do this to stop the evil west. Because the West just wants to keep us down. Putin is the picture of Adolph in 1935. Yes, the U.S. believes that anyone who suffers from oppression should seek to change their government. The problem is that the replacement government usually is not much better. In this, the U.S. has been naïve.

      1. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Indeed. US leaders need to face up to the fact that while it’s good that they claim to advocate for human rights and democracy, they’ve often fallen far short of these aims and have sometimes used them as a cynical means of justifying wars or regime changes so as to achieve some economic benefit. This is precisely what the Russian propaganda machine took advantage of.

        It’s like a virus that successfully attacks a host because its immune system is weakened.

  4. whatdoiknow

    One could start to suspect that you hold a grudge against mr. Commander in chief.

    Now seriously, I don’t find that your depiction of mr Trump is entirely accurate. He may be a clown and an irresponsible and been ill qualified for the job in addition to act like a spoiled teenager, but it is undeniable that is not an idiot (Or at least there is somebody in his close circle who it isn´t, may be Pencer or Bannon for what I know)

    He has played the populist movement in a magistral way and ended up in th White House, all around Europe you have people trying to do the same thing, with the same tools and utterly failing. Only Berlusconi in Italy or Chavez (with differences) in Venezuela can boast a similar success.

    You call to opposition the guy and what he stands for. I warn you that this can´t be done by playing his game by his rules or you are doomed to be beaten, he is sinking fast if opposition manage to derail his narrative, but hell get even stronger if you embrace it.

      1. whatdoiknow

        That one I can buy, but somebody is even if not Trump, and we should’t let ourselves distracted by the buffoonery that at the end is nothing more than a smoke curtain.

        Since you have at the very least a small degree of influence in other people and you try to fight for what is right I’d beg you to do it in a wise way, there is a lot at stake.

    1. AndyT

      Truth be told, Berlusconi never managed to get as much power as Chavez did – first of all, he wasn’t the C-in-C (the President is).

      Secondly, coalition governments in multi-party systems are less prone to exteme polarization: the Italian one is also plagued by almost endless schisms and switching loyalty (he ultimately fell because a handful MPs left him).

      Thirdly, Italian voters are (or better, were) unlikely to endorse a Trump-like confrontational approach – also, the whole racial discourse was less prevalent, back then.

      Finally, the conservative-liberal divide is (or was?) narrower here than in the U.S.

      1. whatdoiknow

        Your first and second points are valid, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t have a great power at the top of his glory and particularly in a political system as the Italian that you accurately described. In many ways he had an unparalleled successful trajectory in the country political life. And in any way the similarities with mr. Trump are still valid.

        Of course you are right at pointing that any comparison between American and Italian societies is necessary full of divergences. But it still is relevant to understand certain developments with mr. Trump

        Kind regards

      2. AndyT


        Absolutely – from some point of view, he has been the most successful Italian politician, building an impressive supporter base and probably getting away with quite a few peccadillos, so to speak.

        In Foreign policy, he actually drew NATO and Russia a bit closer (business had its part in it), but its endless legal odyssey eventually turned into the main focus of his policies, statements, etc. – and three years into the Great Recession, that wasn’t what Italians were most concerned about 😀

  5. Pingback: Highlights – February 1, 2017 | Blog

  6. Mr. Hack

    Another well thought out posting, Jim. I can’t fault you for your logical inferences and concur with most of your conclusions. I too, find it surprising that you haven’t been thrown out of Russia, with all of your spot on criticisms of Putin and his leadership style. C’mon, fess up, no strange midnight calls, no mid-day unannounced inspections of your apartment when you’re not home?…Or should are you perhaps being groomed to become the poster child for ‘democracy is alive and well in Russia’?…

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      The Russian government isn’t particularly concerned with a blogger only writing in English, with no ties to the US government or any NGOs.

      I did have a rather unpleasant encounter with The Man recently, but that blew over because unfortunately for them, I’m not a moron.

      1. Mr. Hack

        Apparently, Vladimir Kara-Murza hasn’t been as fortunate Breaking news shows that, he’s been hospitalized again in Russia under similar circumstances as a year ago and is on life support…

        ‘We cannot know if the Kremlin’s recent attacks in Ukraine and Mr. Kara-Murza’s illness are early signs that President Putin feels a free hand to ramp-up his attacks abroad and at home. But, we are certain that blissful silence and weakness from the Trump Administration, or any administration, sends a foolish and dangerous signal to the Kremlin that will serve only to invite more of the same. ‘

  7. sglover

    Seems to me that the alleged Putin-Trump entente pales compared to the Trumps very public fellation of our wonderful Saudi friends. Over about 72 hours we get the idiotic and self-defeating “Muslim ban”, a commando stunt in Yemen (?!?), and today Flynn’s deeply unhinged remarks about Iran. Some Trump supporters thought that their boy would ease off of the small-dick gratuitous belligerence….


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