Monday, June 1, during President Trump’s leaked conference call, he told governors that the state of Minnesota had become “a laughing stock all over the world” in light of recent protests throughout Minneapolis. America acting as the worldwide butt of a joke has become a seemingly essential fact in Trump’s worldview. But who, exactly, is laughing at us? Before Trump called our governors, he sat down for a phone call with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. Over the phone, Trump reportedly discussed inviting Russia to the 2020 G7 summit. Russia is not a member of the G7.
Before the age of Trump, if you had suggested that a sitting Republican president would invite Vladimir Putin to an upcoming G7 summit, you would become a laughing stock. A cornerstone of Republican foreign policy has long been the demonstration of strength in the face of Russia. However, it seems that the Republican party has turned a new page in dealing with our seemingly ancient adversary.
As President Trump’s 2016 campaign enveloped the country, Trump spoke highly of Vladimir and lowly of NATO. Trump’s dangerous and misguided rhetoric played directly into Putin’s hand as he aided our most extreme presidential candidates through a concerted but intractable political sabotage program which enlisted us all as clueless agents. Trump and his surrogates, for years now since taking the whitehouse, have praised Putin’s ability to pass unilateral domestic reforms while bashing NATO for not paying their fair share. Such rhetoric helps Putin exact two of his most long standing and critical goals: the dissolution of Western democracy and NATO alike.
It is hard to imagine a more advantageous situation for Russia today. As cities across the United States burn, our president fans the flames and Putin smiles. Putin knows that Trump has begun the walk down a road that he is either too stupid or too immoral to recognize: the road to authoritarianism. Since praising known autocrats, like Putin, for years without any sanctions from Republican leadership, Trump has learned that a military crackdown on widespread protests is not only necessary, but acceptable.
As Trump continues to inflame tensions with rhetoric and violent repression on his march toward authoritarianism, let us not be fooled. The world isn’t laughing at our anguished citizens, the world’s dictators are laughing at our president.