The second reason for the Kremlin’s worry is that the Ukraine scandal undermines Trump’s capacity to conduct his own Russia policy, in opposition to the rest of the U.S. political establishment. As far as the Kremlin is concerned, Trump functions, in Putin’s eyes, as a buffer between Russia and the traditional U.S. national security establishment, which the Kremlin sees as implacably hostile. Trump has thrown overboard all of the established U.S. foreign policy approaches to Russia. He doesn’t preach and he doesn’t stand in Russia’s way. Trump is a businessman, not an ideological warrior, and he is not impeded by annoying democratic values.
Russia is ready to pay a price to maintain the Trump buffer, including enduring further rounds of Western economic sanctions. The rest of the U.S. political class, both Democratic and Republican, represents a long-term strategic threat to Russia and its geopolitical interests. Thus, regardless of whatever headaches Trump may create for the Kremlin, he will always seem like the lesser evil. Not surprisingly, whatever happens to Trump, Putin publicly supports him. But now, there is more scrutiny than ever on Trump’s foreign policy conduct, and he will likely not be able to operate in secret.
The third and final reason for the Kremlin to be worried comes from the growing fear that a private presidential conversation with Trump could be published without Russia’s permission.