Putin, the ex-KGB officer, has described himself as a specialist in dealing with people, according to Daniel Hoffman, a former CIA station chief in Moscow. Putin’s tradecraft, Hoffman says, is summarized in a phrase popular among Russian intelligence operatives: “What makes a person breathe?”
Putin seems to have an uncanny sense for how Trump breathes. That has led some observers to speculate that perhaps Trump is a controlled Russian agent. This seems unlikely to me, partly because the Russians would never allow a true mole to take such crazy risks of exposure. “He’s not a controlled agent, because if he was, they’d tell him how to behave so as not to endanger himself,” observes a former head of CIA operations against Russia.
No, Trump is something different. The phrase “useful idiot,” attributed to Vladimir Lenin, is often used, but the technical Russian term for an often unwitting but helpful asset is a “confidential contact.” What Trump offers Russia isn’t the information he knows but his role as a human wrecking ball against America’s traditional allies and trading partners.