New Yorker columnist Susan Glasser made the astute observation that if Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to destabilize the United States with the election of President Donald Trump, he’s clearly achieved his objective.
It was reported in March that Russian intelligence services are working to incite violence using white supremacist groups to try and sow racial chaos in the United States ahead of the November election.
“Should we disregard the peaceful mass protests against the oppression of black people and focus, as Trump would have us do, exclusively on the lawlessness and looting that the self-styled ‘law & order’ President claims to be cleaning up?” Glasser asked. “Is this an authoritarian crackdown by Trump or merely another politicized spectacle from a leader who craves them? Just as he did this spring, during the pandemic, when he declared war against an ‘Invisible Enemy’ but denied ‘any responsibility at all’ for its outcome, the President has talked tough but seems most interested in being seen to ‘dominate,’ as he has put it repeatedly, rather than actually doing so.”
She went on to call Washington a tragic combination of “menacing” and “absurd.” The men with big guns and combat fatigues are reminiscent of the city after Sept. 11, not after a typical D.C. protest.
“What struck me, though, wasn’t that the President and his Pentagon chief were lying so shamelessly to the public, nor even the embarrassing lameness of their lies,” Glasser wrote. “This is, in fact, a farce with consequences. There are checkpoints being patrolled by combat units, and images of armed thugs targeting and beating students and journalists on live T.V. in the name of protecting the President…Trump may be a clown, but he has managed, in the week since [George] Floyd’s killing, to present the world with dystopian images of America as Egypt or Russia or Turkey or any of the other unfree places that we Americans are used to smugly lecturing about freedom.”
The chaos she said Trump is so “adept” at creating has come amid two major international decisions. From his “inspection of the bunker,” Trump said he was pulling out of the World Health Organization, and he was inviting Putin to the G-7 summit that Putin was exiled from after invading Ukraine.
“Inviting Putin to the United States just weeks before the American Presidential election and torching the G-7 alliance at a moment of international economic crisis are no less malevolent acts because they are being carried out by a clown,” wrote Glasser. “These past few days have shown, once again, that Trump is in permanent burn-it-down mode. It’s just that he is smashing windows in the way that rich, entitled types do, and the damage will be much harder to fix than broken glass and looted sneaker stores.”
She noted the irony of the moment as she was walking back to her car before D.C.’s curfew on Tuesday night. She saw protesters on 16th street asking if it was really necessary to drag someone from their car after they pulled them over.
“The police officer ignored them. A helicopter buzzed overhead, and, less than a block away, soldiers were blocking traffic. I could not help but notice that this surreal scene, so redolent of every display of police-state might that I covered as a foreign correspondent in the former Soviet Union, was unfolding in front of the Russian Ambassador’s ornate Beaux-Arts residence. Vladimir Putin would have loved it,” she closed.