I just noticed that the Times David Leonhardt has written a more elegant version of the argument I tried to make on Friday: If President Trump devised a plan to break up the Western alliance and advance the strategic interests of Russia, the plan would look pretty much like what we’re watching unfold in front of us. Why he’s doing this doesn’t really matter. That he’s doing it is the only thing that matters. And he is doing it.
I will note that there’s one part of this which I think is characterological. Look at how Trump treats the people who work for him. Almost without exception he treats them like crap. Michael Cohen is the archetypal example: total and extreme subservience which is repaid with a litany of slights and insults and indignities. But we see it with basically everyone in Trump’s orbit: insulting behavior, outbursts to let them know who’s boss. To work for Donald Trump is to surrender dignity. We’ve all marveled at how freely people seem to make this bargain.
When I was first studying up on Trump someone told me that there was a basic bargain in Trump’s world. If you worked for Trump you accepted this sort of bullying, often sadistic, always crazy behavior. If you did, you got to live the Trump lifestyle. Money, the high life, all the perks. Big money, low dignity. Plenty of people made that bargain.
I think some of what is at work in Trump’s diplomacy. Allies should fall in line, be appreciative. If we say we need a bigger cut, they should give us a bigger cut. The top dog gets the win. And for Trump to know he won, he needs to see you lose. This all makes alliances on the NATO/G-7 model very difficult. I don’t think it’s mainly that. I think Trump wants to break up the Western alliance and cater to the strategic interests of Russia. But this is also part of the equation.