This article about Putin’s appeal to the Russian people has been on lots of blogs lately. It is an interesting piece (you should definitely read the whole thing). Russians found democracy (at least what was called democracy following the collapse of the Soviet Union) to be less than what they were hoping for. Putin rose to power in that turmoil. He went after the kleptocrats who carved up assets after the Soviet collapse and brought some national pride and stability back to Russia. Of course, like all dictatorships (benevolent or not), the danger of a strong man regime is what follows it?
Putin is a complex guy. He said he believed in God when it was definitely not in his interest politically to do so. He does care about his country and wants to restore its prestige in the world. He fought kleptocrats but may very well have become one himself. He very much understands the threat of Islamic terror and in typical Russian fashion, responds back with an escalation of force when confronted.
Should we trust Putin? Of course not, we should not trust any state or foreign leader (or for that matter domestic leaders). But our respective national interests are way more aligned with Russia than they are with…say Iran. Putin’s rise in power in the world is in large part thanks to the vacuum left by Obama in terms of American leadership. Regardless of what we may think about Putin, we definitely need to work with him.
So is Donald Trump like Vladimir Putin? Yes (as is Hillary Clinton). Both Trump and Clinton are driven by ego and being part of history. Trump wants to be loved…maybe adored is a better way to describe it (in that way he is a lot like Bill Clinton). Putin and Trump are nationalists. Hillary is less concerned about being loved or nationalism, she wants power. There is a narcissistic tendency in all politicians, but that force is especially strong in Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Does that mean Trump, if he managed to get elected, would act the same way Putin has in Russia? Probably not (that goes for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Ted Cruz too). There are significant restraints on executive power in the USA that they don’t have in Russia. In some ways Donald Trump has more control over day to day operations in his companies than he would have if he got elected. Hillary is probably potentially more dangerous than Trump, only because she knows how to navigate government bureaucracy better than Trump does.
The fears and frustrations that Russians felt in the 1990s are similar to what a lot of Trump supporters are feeling now. Trump is reaching out to those people (and challenging the status quo) and that is why they are supporting him.
I am not supporting Trump. Trump’s policy positions are not clear and those that are (like how to deal with foreign trade) would probably cause far more harm than help to American workers. While looking out for America’s (and the American people’s) interests is critical (and I do think Trump in spirit wants to do that), the fix for our problems is getting back to the conservative fundamentals of protection of liberty, private property, limited government, and adherence to constitutional restraints on all three branches of government. The only candidate even close to following those principals is Ted Cruz. I am also convinced Trump has damaged himself with a series of avoidable political mistakes that makes his chances of prevailing in the general election low. Of course, Ted will have some significant challenges getting elected too.