One of the Democrats’ big talking points in this election is the claim that Vladimir Putin favors Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. The talking point serves two purposes: (1) as a response to every new WikiLeak and (2) as a selling point for Hillary in its own right.
The talking point seems implausible, though. Hillary Clinton is the author of the Russian “reset,” which proved most beneficial for Putin (e.g., with respect to missile defense for the Poles and the Caechs). Moreover, as Michael Ledeen points outs:
Putin’s got a lot going with Hillary. His pals donated more than a hundred million dollars to the Clinton Family Foundation while she was secretary of state, and they gained ownership of twenty per cent of America’s uranium supply.
As for Trump:
We don’t know a great deal about Trump’s foreign policy views (he’s been very weak on national security during the three debates), but we do know that he has great confidence in retired Lt Gen Michael Flynn, who is certainly no fan of Putin. Several months ago, the Kremlin hosted Flynn at a conference in Moscow, prompting many pundits to claim that Flynn—and thus Trump—was a buddy of Putin.
We haven’t heard much of that lately, because Flynn was outspokenly critical of Russian foreign policy, and said so, in public, in Moscow. Moreover, anyone who reads Flynn’s book (which I coauthored) will find extensive criticism of Putin himself, clearly identifying him as an enemy.
If, as is widely rumored, Flynn is slated for a high position in a Trump Administration, that is a big reason for the Russian dictator to prefer Hillary.
But what about those WikiLeaks? Don’t they demonstrate that Putin is trying to tip the election to Trump?
Not necessarily. Putin, the ex-KGB man, may believe that by creating the appearance of favoring Trump, he is helping Clinton. It’s a rationale view, and maybe a shrewd one.
Ledeen also notes that if Putin really wanted to help Trump, he would be leaking details of his friends’ relationships with the Clintons, including, for example, the transactions through which Russia gained control of large amounts of U.S. uranium.
I don’t know whether Putin favors Clinton or Trump. Nor, given Trump’s eccentricity and lack of clarity, do I know for sure which candidate I would favor in his shoes. However, I very much doubt that Putin will lose any sleep if Hillary Clinton becomes president.