Donald Trump’s flirtations with Russian president Vladimir Putin likely started out as a give and take, leaving Trump to trust that someone as corrupt as Putin could be bullied into silence using a threat of exposing his corruption, a narcissists code of honor, or an unscrupulous attack on his reputation.
In our world, Trump is the guy who disregards all of his social obligations to focus on the privilege our social contract has afforded him, and then that guy wins a democratic election despite how obvious it is that he’s a sociopath with no goal other than enriching himself at any cost. He’s the worst of us.
But in Trump’s world, Putin is that guy. Trump found himself played by his own game and by then, Putin had everything he needed to put Trump in a bad, bad place. He tried repeatedly to lose the election. He gave it a lot of effort. He knew that he’d be Putin’s puppet forever if he managed to ascend to the most powerful office of Putin’s most powerful enemy. Losing to Hillary Clinton would give him a less dramatic undoing.
But now that he’s in, and he’s identified the long-term threat, he needs to circle the wagons and regroup. Militarizing the Executive branch must be signaling to Putin that Trump is finally understanding what’s actually happening here.