Russia, if you’re listening…

By the end of February, the Russian government should invite the Trumps to visit Moscow. The trip would include a meeting with Vladimir Putin, some parties with various oligarchs, perhaps a side trip to St. Petersburg to see the Winter Palace in winter. It’s magnificent.

Oh, yes. The Russians should also offer the Trumps asylum, and the Trumps should accept. Some in the Russian media are already suggesting it.

By giving them asylum, Russia would save everyone a lot of trouble. The Justice Department, the New York Attorney General, the Manhattan District Attorney and the Attorney General for the District of Columbia wouldn’t have to go through all the time and trouble of prosecuting the Trump crime family. Congressional committees could move on to more useful endeavors than raking through the Trump muck.

Russia wouldn’t have to worry about some of their secret dealing with Deutsche Bank or the Trumps or others in the Trump orbit like Michael Flynn or Paul Manafort being made public in a trial or trials.

The Trumps would fit in perfectly with the oligarch class in Russia. They could flit between Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi and wherever else they wanted to go in the luxury they always wanted. Trump might be able to build that Trump Tower he lied about during the campaign. You know, when he said he didn’t have any dealings with Russia at the same time Michael Cohen was over in Moscow talking with the Russians.

At this point, Putin owes Trump a lot, and this would be the best way to repay him. Trump gave Putin the best four years the Russians have had since the start (and continuation) of the Cold War.

Just think, that without spending billions of dollars on defense systems or troops, without firing a shot, without taking one casualty, Putin through Trump was able to bring Russia’s most formidable adversary to its knees while at the same time imposing serious cracks in the Western alliance that had opposed the Soviet Union since the end of World War II. (Putin’s Brexit side hustle helped with that also.)

Trump removed the U.S. as Russia’s most serious adversary. He leaked sensitive information to Russian diplomats. He discarded the practice of making public discussions with foreign leaders by saying nothing about his talks with Putin and taking the notes of his interpreter. Even when stories came out about Putin putting bounties on the heads of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Trump said nothing.

There is a lot of speculation about why this behavior is happening. Does he owe the oligarchs millions of dollars, or more? Does Russian state security have something on him? We don’t know. We do know Trump realigned the relationship, and not in a way helpful to the U.S. There is even one train of thought that Trump has been in the thrall of the Russians since 1987. We know that after he suggested that Russians go after Hillary Clinton’s emails, they got right on the case. We know that, as former FBI agent Peter Strzok reported, as Washington prepared for Trump’s inauguration, “a veritable Who’s Who of people with shady Russian connections descended on D.C. as if it were 1930s interwar Vienna.” We know Trump sided with Putin over our own intelligence services over Russian interference in the 2016 election. Strzok, a counter-intelligence senior agent, concluded, “Yet I believed, based on all that we had already uncovered, that Trump was compromised — badly and in a myriad of ways, in large part because of his lies about his Russian dealings.

Trump’s fawning while rejecting democratically elected leaders led to serious breaches with NATO, which in turn has led our traditional Western allies to see us not as the reliable partner we have always been, but as a nut case without values. They are going it alone because we can’t be depended upon.

That’s only the foreign policy piece. Trump has helped Putin immeasurably by his domestic actions. From the Agriculture Department to the Voice of America, there isn’t one government agency that Trump hasn’t corrupted, driving out people with decades of expertise and imposing his anti-science and anti-diplomacy policies.

His handling of coronavirus is devastating the country as cases rise, deaths rise and unemployment rises while businesses collapse. It was not simply the denial of the existence of the virus nor the failure of an adequate government response that was so helpful to Putin. It was Trump’s ability to tear the country apart.

The fact that health officials all over the country are facing death threats and quitting their jobs over requiring people simply to wear a mask is an outgrowth of Trump. This is happening even as people in these communities are dying.

But his biggest, most pernicious assist to Putin is what’s going on right now as he continues to inflame his base over the results of the election, more than a month after it was over. There has been no credible evidence of any fraud, yet people around the country are gathering at demonstrations, sometimes armed and usually maskless, to tell officials overturn the results and give Trump the presidency.

He is aided by the gutless Republicans in Congress and around the country who file and support the 50 lawsuits that the Trump campaign and red state officials have filed — all of which have been lost.

He is undermining the basis of our democracy and people who call themselves patriots are flocking to his call. Trump does this consistently by playing on the perceived grievances of mostly white men. It’s called the “politics of resentment,” and he has taken it to a new level.

That is the weapon Trump has unleashed on Putin’s behalf — the ferocity of Americans turned against Americans. That is the weapon that needs no equipment but is more deadly because it eats away at the national spirit.

One of my favorite writers, in another context, described the dangers aptly: “The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices — to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own — for the children and the children yet unborn.”

The writer, who would celebrate his 96th birthday this year, is Rod Serling, and he concluded that thought, “And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone.”

No, the scapegoats of China for the virus, or innocent state election officials trying to do their jobs, or health officers trying to protect their communities, are all too real in this time and place.

So yes, President Putin, take in your buddy Donald. Reward him for a job well done. It will take years to fix the damage he has wrought.

Communications consultant, recovering journalist

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