Under President Trump, the United States has abandoned international climate and nuclear arms agreements. It has announced its withdrawal from the World Health Organization, questioned the future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and antagonized stalwart allies like Germany.
America’s past presidents have long promoted democracy, human rights and the rule of law abroad, yet Trump instead has waged an assault on those values at home, where he has weakened institutions, shredded norms and declared without evidence that the upcoming election will be “rigged.”
America’s moral authority also has been undercut by the devastatingly high death toll and wrenching economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with the racial reckoning that has convulsed the country.
These highlights from Trump’s nearly four years in office read like Vladimir Putin’s wish list. Few countries have benefited more geopolitically from Trump’s time in office than Russia.
In his two decades as Russia’s autocratic leader, Putin has systematically sought to grow his nation’s influence at America’s expense by breaking up its long-standing alliance structure and discrediting its democratic institutions and values.
Over the past four years, Putin has succeeded to a remarkable degree, aided by the credibility and support on the world stage that Trump has given him, according to national security and foreign policy experts, some of them Trump’s most strident critics.
“The more dysfunctional, polarized and erratic the United States seems at home, the more beset by domestic problems, the more ineffective in demonstrating leadership and dealing with them, especially during the pandemic, the better that is for Russia, because they benefit from a world in which the United States is seen as unreliable and unpredictable,” said William J. Burns, a former deputy secretary of state and U.S. ambassador to Russia under George W. Bush who now leads the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. [Continue reading…]