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Vladimir Putin

Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks during the Leaders Dialogue with BRICS Business Council and the New Development Bank, at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, Brazil.

When I grew up in western Massachusetts in the 1950s, it was rock-ribbed Republican, and so were my parents. They didn’t trust the Soviets or Russia as far as they could throw them, and we teased my dad about seeing a “Commie” behind every tree.

And when the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union crumbled everyone was elated — everyone except Vladimir Putin, who called the fall of the Soviet empire the worst disaster of his lifetime. He swore he’d get back at America for gloating over its triumph, and would Make Russia Great Again.

To do that, he had to create and implement a Russian “wish list” to rebuild Russian dominance. Here are the key items from that list:

* Destroy America by sowing discord and division that would weaken us from within.

* In particular, destroy our Security Services and State Department by which we protect ourselves, and project American influence.

* Weaken and destroy the NATO Alliance that has kept the peace in Europe and held Russia at bay for nearly 75 years.

* Weaken the European Union and its ties to America.

* Regain functional control of the Eastern European countries that broke away from the Soviet Empire.

* Rebuild Russia’s power and influence in the Middle East and supplant U.S. dominance.

Little did Putin realize that he’d have an unlikely ally in achieving this wish list — the current president of the United States. Here’s how that’s happened:

* President Trump has steadfastly absolved Russia of blame for sowing discord in our 2016 elections despite all evidence to the contrary from our entire Security Services and those of our allies — savagely attacking the credibility of our own intelligence agencies instead.

* Recently the president has claimed that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in our elections — a debunked conspiracy theory hatched by Konstantin Kilimnik of Russian Intelligence, and pushed by Putin.

* The president spent his first two years repeatedly attacking NATO and weakening that crucial military alliance, while ignoring the advice of every military adviser and general.

* He has hollowed out our State Department by leaving hundreds of key positions unfilled, and sidelining experienced professionals in favor of political cronies.

* After a phone call with Turkish autocrat Erdogan, and without consulting his military advisers, the president ordered American troops out of northeastern Syria, exposing Kurdish allies to slaughter; risking the release of ISIS prisoners; and turning American military bases over to the Russians.

* In 2018, the Russian Navy seized three Ukrainian Navy ships in international waters of the Black Sea and detained their sailors. The U.S 6th Fleet prepared to send a warship to the area to support freedom of navigation rights, but President Trump ordered them to stand down to avoid angering Russia. Not a good “Make America Great Again” moment.

* The president's initial hold on javelin missiles to Ukraine, and his recent 55-day hold on $391 million in military aide, not only put troops of our Ukrainian ally in peril, it immeasurably strengthened Putin’s hand throughout Eastern Europe.

When we look at the president’s words and actions over the last three years, it’s hard not to conclude that he has “given aid and comfort to our enemies” at every turn, while tearing down American institutions, alliances, and national security. More alarming is the fact that most Republicans have followed the president as he checked off one victory after another on Putin’s wish list. One wonders when the party of Lincoln will regain its moral compass and just say “no.”

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Brian Peck is an independent wildlife consultant who lives in Columbia Falls.

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