Pres. Donald Trump's erratic behavior and instances of apparent emotional instability have got even his supporters in Moscow rattled, according to reports.
Vanity Fair's The Hive blog said Friday that after months of fawning, favorable treatment by Russian media, in late January and early February, "coverage began to taper off and then, oddly, turn lackluster and sour."
Trump -- who was previously portrayed much as Russian media portrays its own blustering oligarchs, as a man of courage with a "noble heart" -- is now being described as a poor planner who did not anticipate the strength and magnitude of the resistance he would face.
"Over the last week or two, the state-run news service RIA Novosti has portrayed Trump as besieged by enemies at home," said The Hive's Peter Savodnik. "Then, in late February, the news service quoted Sergei Ivanov, the former chief of staff of the presidential administration, saying that the Russian media, which had formerly been 'overly optimistic' about Trump, had assumed a more 'pragmatic' approach."
Savodnik said that the reason for the Kremlin's change of heart -- and thereby Russian media's change of heart -- is not entirely clear, although it's likely that Moscow has concerns about Trump's inner circle.
"Defense Secretary James Mattis is hardly pro-Russia. Rex Tillerson, who Putin personally awarded the Russian Order of Friendship, appears, for now, to have been marginalized. Michael Flynn is gone, and the new national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, is hawkish on Russia," said Savodnik. "The new C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, opened up his Senate confirmation hearing, in January, by lambasting the Kremlin for interfering in the 2016 election. And now Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, appears to have lied by omission about meeting the Russian ambassador, and has since recused himself from any investigation into ties between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign."
Troublesome aides can be dispensed with easily enough, however, as Savodnik said, "One expects the FSB [Russia's top spy agency, formerly the KGB] has enough intel on everyone in the White House, including the president, to ruin anyone deemed uncooperative."
No, what is worrying top Russian officials, Savodnik said, is the hysterical devotion of Trump's base.
"Among Republicans, and especially among the lumpenproletariat, the people who believe they’ve been left out, the permanently aggrieved, every insult that Trump hurls at Clinton or Nordstrom or the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is justified and poetic—it is what has been coming for a long time," he wrote.
He continued, "For much of his base, Donald Trump is the biblical flood come to America, and even if a lot of people might drown, that’s O.K. In fact, that may be the point."
"Of course, that’s insane, and even though many of Trump’s voters may not appreciate that, the Russian president presumably does. Putin is terrified of instability," Savodnik explained.
Trump's ascent was in truth a catastrophe, he said, and the Kremlin knows it.
"It was a catastrophe not because of the election, not because of anything political. That was the least of it. It was a catastrophe because it simultaneously illuminated and kindled a darkness, a rot, deep in the American psyche. The Kremlin and its media puppets may not grasp the etiology of this curdling, but they must be aware, by this late date, that something bad is happening in America, and it will spill over, across the oceans and continents, and it will upset, upend, discombobulate everything everywhere," Savodnik warned.
He concluded, "An infant is now the most powerful person on Earth, and he is loved and worshipped by millions, and they think he will save them, that he is He, that the end is near, and so is the beginning. Until a few minutes ago, the Kremlin higher-ups were laughing. Now, like everyone else who hasn’t been swindled, they wait."