MOSCOW — A note of glee crept into Russian commentary and news coverage on Friday about the current turmoil in Washington around national security, with President Vladimir V. Putin seemingly checking off one item after another that he might have written on his wish list for Santa. -- Neil MacFarquhar in The New York Times.
MacFarquhar was reporting today on the impact in Russia of President Donald Trump's announcements that the US will withdraw all remaining troops -- something around 2,000 -- from Syria and half of our troops currently stationed in Afghanistan. Those actions prompted the resignation of Trump's most respected cabinet member, Defense Secretary Gen. Jim Mattis.
The Times quoted Vladimir Frolov, a Russian columnist and foreign affairs analyst like this:
"Trump is God’s gift that keeps on giving. Trump implements Russia’s negative agenda by default, undermining the U.S.–led world order, U.S. alliances, U.S. credibility as a partner and an ally. All of this on his own. Russia can just relax and watch and root for Trump, which Putin does at every TV appearance.”
Meanwhile, here at home, as I write this Republican Senate leaders are meeting with Trump at the White House hoping to convince him not to shut down a big chunk of the government over Congress' refusal to give him $5 billion to build his promised wall on our southern border. Of course, during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump claimed Mexico would pay for the wall. Now, realizing the impossibility of such a promise, he wants the U.S. taxpayers to do so.
All of this, including the resignation of Gen. Mattis, has thrown the US into crisis. In his letter of resignation, Mattis said it is essential for the U.S. to maintain strong alliances and show respect to our allies and warned that China and Russia "want to gain authority over other nations' economic, diplomatic, and security decisions -- to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies."
He said he needed to resign because he does not believe President Trump shares those views. Historians say Mattis is the first US defense secretary to resign in protest.
So here we are at Christmas time 2018. Our stock market -- on which many of us rely for our retirement income, not to simply roll up wealth -- has tanked and continues to do so.
Some 800,000 government workers will be affected over the holidays, assuming the #TrumpShutdown takes place. Required to work without getting paid will be some 420,000 workers, while another 380,000 will be placed on temporary leave without receiving pay. There is no telling if, or when, they will recoup that pay.
But who will have a Merry Christmas under these circumstances? Looks like it will be Putin and his pals in Russia.
Meanwhile, Trump can enjoy his fancy Christmas while nearly 1 million Americans are tossed out of work because of him. He can relax for a while, but reports out today say Robert Mueller's investigation is nearing an end. Maybe then we'll see why Trump is Russia's "gift that keeps on giving."