I’d like to think the president can’t be manipulated by propaganda this crude, an obvious ploy to get him to challenge Congress on sanctions by playing to his alpha-male vanity and insecurity about Russiagate.
I’d like to.
The US President’s signing of the package of new sanctions against Russia will have a few consequences. First, it ends hopes for improving our relations with the new US administration. Second, it is a declaration of a full-fledged economic war on Russia. Third, the Trump administration has shown its total weakness by handing over executive power to Congress in the most humiliating way. This changes the power balance in US political circles.
What does it mean for them? The US establishment fully outwitted Trump; the President is not happy about the new sanctions, yet he could not but sign the bill. The issue of new sanctions came about, primarily, as another way to knock Trump down a peg. New steps are to come, and they will ultimately aim to remove him from power. A non-systemic player has to be removed. Meanwhile, the interests of the US business community are all but ignored, with politics chosen over a pragmatic approach. Anti-Russian hysteria has become a key part of both US foreign policy (which has occurred many times) and domestic policy (which is a novelty).
The sanctions regime has been codified and will remain in effect for decades unless a miracle happens.
That’s from Russian PM and famous beta male Dmitry Medvedev, who acted as a seat-warmer for Putin in the presidency from 2008 to 2012 because the Russian constitution (for the moment) forbids the president from serving for more than two consecutive terms. Putin, who became prime minister, wanted a man he could control to succeed him and who would gallantly step aside once he was eligible to run again in 2012. He knew whom to turn to. Medvedev’s most famous moment as president among Americans was probably his hot-mic reply to Obama’s promise of greater “flexibility” in his second term that he would “transmit this information to Vladimir.” He may be the world’s most reliable toady. But I digress.
Gotta hand it to him: He knows which buttons to push. Trump undoubtedly does see the new sanctions bill as part of a broader establishment conspiracy to use Russia to undermine him, first by questioning his legitimacy via the Russiagate probe and now by telegraphing their distrust that he’ll conduct diplomacy with Moscow responsibly via a bill that ties his hands. I’m sure he’s also suspicious that Congress would prefer to see Pence replace him, a not unfounded fear. This will get under his skin. Taunting him this way is good strategy too, in that it places Trump in a position where he’s compromised no matter what he ends up doing on sanctions. If he abides by the bill, Medvedev’s insults about his “weakness” will echo in his ears and the ears of his base, which idolizes Trump as a pillar of strength; if he challenges Congress on the bill’s constitutionality, anti-Trumpers will cite Medvedev’s statement as proof that Trump is once again aligning himself with Moscow against the U.S. government, just as he has by parroting Putin’s line about the Russian hacking last year instead of the CIA’s.
Essentially it’s a test to see who Trump will attack rhetorically in the aftermath — Medvedev and Russia, which he never seems to do, or Congress. The next test after that will probably come in eastern Europe, maybe depending on how he does with this one.