Trump's Putin infatuation undermines Western democracy
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It has become increasingly obvious that GOP nominee Donald Trump compulsively seeks to "dominate" any given situation. He constantly interrupts his opponents during debates, he obsesses over "making deals," and he believes he can decide who does and does not get paid for their labor. This behavior has deep childhood roots. As he bragged in his book "Crippled America", "I wanted to be the toughest kid in the neighborhood."

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Yet now there is a dangerous irony inherent in his desire to dominate; through his hero worship of Russian President Vladimir Putin (perhaps meant to flatter him into submission), Trump has placed himself squarely under the thumb of the Kremlin's resident strongman. If this is Trump's version of presidential diplomacy, it is a losing strategy. Through his business conflicts, choice of campaign leadership and romantic musings about Putin as the ideal leader, Trump has betrayed an inability to separate his interests from the America's national interests.

Surely he can't be complicit! So this leaves us with a presidential candidate who is either complacent with Russia's aims and efforts when it undermines Western democracy, or simply unable to perceive them. "I don't think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC [Democratic National Committee]," exclaimed Trump during the first debate. This statement is even more appalling now that the FBI has concluded that "the Russian government was behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee."

A man who conflates the singular efforts of a 400-pound "someone" sitting on a bed with a nationally sponsored hacking scheme, while lacking the common sense to resist making false and highly politicized comments about his first classified security briefing on national television, is not capable of mastering the nuanced aspects of international diplomacy. Just as the Russian government has used the WikiLeaks platform to its own benefit, Putin will quickly harness Trump's naivete.

The latest development in Trump's lopsided tango with the former KGB agent is the rise and fall of the Trump campaign's former foreign policy adviser Carter Page, who is now being investigated by U.S. intelligence officials for his recent visits to Russia. A former vice president in the Moscow offices of Merrill Lynch and currently management at Global Energy Capital LLC, Page considers himself an expert in both Russia and the energy sector, but just as Trump often overstates his accomplishments, Page may be exaggerating as well. An in-depth look at Page's reputation in the Russian business and energy world found that prominent businessmen are largely unfamiliar with his name.

In the face of frequent staff turnover, Page's resignation is only the latest example of Trump's inability to choose staffers who are caring and competent enough to preserve American democracy and the larger liberal democratic order. No matter how you slice it, Trump's careless and self-interested fraternization with the Putin regime signals naivete about Russia and leaves him in a vulnerable position through which he could sacrifice our nation's security.

If Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE believes that his business "acumen," flattering language towards Russia and his employment of "Russia experts," will help him go toe-to-toe with Vladimir Putin, he is dangerously delusional.

Stern is founder and chair of The Stern Group and former chairwoman of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). She wrote the definitive book on congressional-executive foreign policy-making, "Water's Edge: Domestic Politics and the Making of American Foreign Policy."


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