Putin and Donald Trump: The revelation of Machiavellianism
While Donald Trump was approaching his inauguration, the rumors about the dossier with damaging personal information being in the hands of Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, began to circulate in the press. It is implied that Putin could use the information in this dossier to promote his interests and restrain Trump from dealing with Moscow. The Kremlin denied the existence of such a dossier and suggested that it doesn’t collect any information about Trump. However, in his 17 January 2017 meeting with Moldavian President Igor Dodona, Putin reportedly confirmed that he has access to such information and could use it to create serious problems for the USA. The message was coded, but could be easily understood by those who lived in the Soviet era and knew how the KGB (the Soviet secret police), Putin’s original employer, operates. In the peculiar Orwellian parlance, the denial is a peculiar affirmation.
Putin stated that the Secret Police had never collected material on Trump because, as Putin noted, there are “too many billionaires” and the Kremlin could hardly watch over all of them. This is hardly the case. Even in the USA, billionaires are not so numerous. Even fewer visited post-Soviet Russia in search of places for investments. One should also remember that during the Soviet era, the KGB collected personal information and watched over or tried to recruit even much less important figures than Donald Trump, as the memoirs of those who visited Russia or the USSR can testify.
In his speech, Putin vehemently denied the fact that the Kremlin could encourage Trump’s sexual appetites during his visit to Moscow. Putin stated that using prostitutes – whom he euphemistically called women with “low levels of social responsibility” – in a way to discredit someone is absolutely disgraceful. And he continued to say that those people are “worse than prostitutes.” Those who have a casual knowledge of KGB operations understand that the Soviet secret police actively uses females to compromise and recruit foreigners, and Western intelligence even developed rules about what Western diplomats or other officials should do if tempted. One might add that East German secret police – then of course under the full control of Moscow – developed their techniques to perfection and compromised not just males but females who could provide useful information. Finally, Putin stated that Trump does not need Russian prostitutes, for he organized the beauty contests in the USA and dealt with many beautiful women. Putin – or at least his advisors – are pretty much aware that beauty contests in the USA are quite different from similar enterprises in the late Gorbachev and early Yeltsin Russia, and the women who participate in these contests do not assume that they must put out sexually for rich sponsors of the contest. At the same time, Russian prostitutes could be a quite handy and easy outlet. Putin, in a peculiar mixture of Freudian slip mixed with peculiar patriotism, proclaimed that Russian women are the best and beyond competition.
Putin’s denial of the dossier or any information existing on Trump confirms, in a peculiar Machiavellian and Orwellian way, that the Kremlin indeed has such information. Putin also made clear what he could do with this information, and this idea is also conveyed in his usually Machiavellian and Orwellian fashion.
Putin allegedly became concerned that the rumors about Trump’s behavior and dossier could lead to an American edition of “maidan.” Here, Putin made a reference to what the Russian elite called the “orange revolutions,” a term usually applied to upheavals in post-Soviet space, which often led to the collapse of authoritarian regimes. One of these revolutions took place in Ukraine in “maidan” – the major square in Kiev, the capital, and led to the collapse of the regime of Viktor Yamkovich, pro-Russian Ukrainian president. Moscow blamed the revolt entirely on the West. In his speech, Putin made a new conclusion from the “maidan” story and stated that those who try to delegitimize Trump actually want to repeat “maidan” in America and endanger the very stability of the country. Putin proclaimed that he was quite concerned with this possible scenario and that he wants to protect Trump and, of course, the entire USA’s political system. As with other statements, the translation from Machiavellian and Orwellian language means that the Kremlin is well aware of the visible tension in the USA related to Trump’s presidency, and could well use this information in an attempt to destabilize the country.
How can one assess Putin’s move? It would be of course oversimplification to explain Trump’s victory as solely the result of Moscow’s interference. One should also not attribute to the Kremlin folk almost superhuman abilities. Still, one should also not discount the Russian ruling elite, Putin included, as irrelevant to American politics. Putin has superb Machiavellian skills, and the ability to apply these skillfully in pursuing his goals.
The writer is an associate professor of history at Indiana University South Bend. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org