Long time political observers remember President George W. Bush's infamous 2001 comment about having "looked into Putin’s eyes and saw his soul, then captured his heart". That was back in the days when the collapse of the old Soviet Union was still fresh and Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, had done so much to repair and inject good will into Russian-American relations with his Slavic Buddy Hackett routine. Nobody in the West knew much about Vladimir Putin, and to be fair, the focus of Americans was soon riveted on Islamic jihadism, where it would remain for years to come. That did provide convenient cover for the (ex?) KGB agent who considers the fall of the Evil Empire "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century" to entrench his dictatorial rule and leverage Russian energy resources into rebuilding the nation's military might and embarking on the long march of regaining the global reach and influence it had lost with Soviet communism's collapse. The latter began manifesting itself in earnest late in Dubya's presidency with the de facto re-annexation of Belurus and the incursions into Georgia in 2008, prompting Bush the son to chagrinedly admit that Putin was a "disappointment in the freedom agenda".
One would think that that would settle the question of whether Czar Vlad was a friend or an enemy to the U.S. firmly in the latter category. Certainly Mitt Romney thought and said so during the 2012 presidential campaign when he accurately declared Russia to be "without question our number one geopolitical foe". Back in those days, which seem a lot more distant than they really are, it was Barack Obama and liberal Democrats who laughed at such hardheaded realism, the former lampooning Romney in the same debate by cracking that "the 1980s are calling, and they'd like their foreign policy back" (neglecting to add that that foreign policy had been <1> successful and <2> Democrats had opposed it). It was Barack Obama who played footsie with and cozied up to the Kremlin, as when he whispered to Dmitri Medvedev, Putin's second in command, too close to a hot mic that, “I'll have more flexibility....after the 2012 election." It was Hillary Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State who helped broker the Uranium One deal that turned over a fifth of American uranium to Moscow.
But before having satisfied himself that the American Left was in his back pocket, Putin wasted no time working on getting inside the heads of the American Right as well:
A Russian politician with links to the Kremlin has worked to influence conservatives since 2009, frequently traveling back and forth from Russia to America, and going beyond his bounds as a legislator and later at the Russian central bank, NPR reports.
Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, was a member of the National Rifle Association for years and a frequent guest at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. Last month, he was added to a list of Russian nationals that have been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department.
"(Vladimir)" Putin and probably the Russian intelligence services saw [Torshin's connections] as something that they could leverage in the United States," Steve Hall, a retired CIA official and former head of Russia operations. "They reach to reach out to guy like Torshin and say, 'Hey, can you make contact with the NRA and some other conservatives... so that we can have connectivity from Moscow into those conservative parts of American politics should we need them?' And that's basically just wiring the United States for sound, if you will, in preparation for whatever they might need down the road."
Translated, that means "when the GOP gets back into power". Which makes sense from a pragmatic point of view. Putin doesn't really care which party is in power. Being the KGB spook he is and has always been, he views America as his "number one geopolitical foe" no matter who is in charge in Washington, D.C., and believes he can work and hoodwink both parties to his country's advantage. A belief that social media has greatly aided but which was never vindicated until the past three years. For it was not until one Donald J. Trump descended his tacky gilded escalator to scantily-clad dancing girls and circus performers onto the American political stage to hijack the Republican Party, culturally Clintonize it, and drag it back to the bad old days of Rockefelleroid liberalism, that the Right's clear-eyed perception of the Kremlin's adversarial nature became hopelessly clouded by personality cultism to where most Trumplicans today (though there are still Republican holdouts here and there in Congress and even the administration) are almost bigger fanboys/girls of the Russian dictator than they are The Donald.
I have to admit that this revelation of so many reactionaries within what we thought of as the conservative ranks, and that they could be turned to national socialism ("nationalism/populism," uneuphemized) and Russophilia with such relative ease and rapidity, is something I did not see coming, and never would have believed to be possible. However, just as Trump proved himself prophetic back in 1998 when he told People magazine that, "If I were to run, I'd run as a Republican. They're the dumbest group of voters in the country. They love anything on Fox News. I could lie and they'd still eat it up," so Putin demonstrated himself as equally if not more foresightful by laying the groundwork for exploiting those "dumb voters" who became such easy and willing suckers for Trump's carnival barker pitch, by cultivating and financially ensnaring Trump himself. That's why 2016 was such a can't-lose proposition for Czar Vlad; no matter which lying crook won the election, he or she would be politically wounded and compromised, and Moscow would be the beneficiary.
This makes it all the more mind-bendingly ironic that it is the man whom Trump supplanted as the bane of conservatism within the GOP who, even in the twilight of his life, has never lost the crystal clarity of recognizing the self-evident fact that Vladimir Putin is not our friend:
"He meddled in one election, and he will do it again because it worked and because he has not been made to stop," [Senator John] McCain argues. "Putin's goal isn't to defeat a candidate or a party. He means to defeat the West."
McCain also laments that Donald Trump does not appear to be more worried about the ex-KGB agent as a serious threat to the United States.
"President Trump seems to vary from refusing to believe what Putin is doing to just not caring about it," McCain writes. "To his credit, he overturned the Obama policy and supplied lethal assistance to Ukraine. But he needs to comprehend the nature of the threat Putin poses. He needs to understand Putin's nature, and ours."
According to McCain, the end of the Cold war left Americans, "including me, giddy with optimism that relations might improve between the United States and Russia.
"It was just delusional to believe Putin would ever be our democratic partner," he writes.
"Vladimir Putin is an evil man, and he is intent on evil deeds, which include the destruction of the liberal world order that the United States has led and that has brought more stability, prosperity, and freedom to humankind than has ever existed in history," McCain asserts.
"He is exploiting the openness of our society and the increasingly acrimonious political divisions consuming us. He wants to widen those divides and paralyze us from responding to his aggression."
And both partisan tribes are working overtime, doing everything humanly possible, to cater to Vlad's strategic whims. Indeed, just yesterday the now Trumpized Mark Levin said on his television program that the Democrats are "more dangerous than any foreign enemy," concurrent with Democrats' incessant screeching insistences that Trump is the twenty-first century Hitler and blanket, mindlessly hatred of the man out of all proportion to any true ideological differences they actually have with him - which isn't many. The truth is as Sailor said: Vladimir Putin is far more of an enemy to all Americans than either U.S. political party could ever be to each other. Heck, 7,300 Russian nuclear warheads ought to make that obvious. What is equally as obvious is that both parties clubbing each other with blunt objects trying to curry Putin's favor when each is in power, and backflipping into Russophobia when they're not out of nothing more than partisan hatred, accomplishes nothing aside from playing right into the Kremlin's hands.
No wonder Vlad always seems to be in a good mood.