But Europe’s larger problem in the face of Putin’s serial aggressions isn’t a dismaying and potentially compromised U.S. president. It isn’t the methods the Kremlin has used to subvert Western democracies: the troll farms, propaganda channels, email hacks, rent-a-protests or loans to extremist parties. And it isn’t a matter of ideology, either. The Kremlin is as happy to ally itself with fascists as it is with Communists, techno-anarchists or radical environmentalists.
The deeper reason Putin seduces is that he believes in the principle of power. He acts. The uses of his power are mainly wicked. But wickedness, at least, is a quality, particularly when it is wedded to political efficacy, personal forcefulness and the appearance of great cunning.
Compare that to the last decade or so of European leaders: David Cameron, Matteo Renzi, Nicolas Sarkozy, Jean-Claude Juncker, even Angela Merkel. What did any of them stand for? What in their personalities was anything other than feckless and pallid? Who among them would pull a trigger for their country’s preservation — or even for their own? How many of them will be remembered in 20 years’ time?