And this points to the main cost of Trump’s Russophilia. It is effective permission for a broad, unconventional Russian offensive, designed to undo the “color revolutions” and restore lost glory at the expense of neighbors and American interests. Russia has employed a sophisticated mix of conventional operations and cyber-operations to annex territory and destabilize governments. It has systematically encouraged far-right, nationalist leaders and supported pro-Russian, anti-democratic parties across Europe. It is trying to delegitimize democratic processes on the theory that turbulence in the West is good for a rising East. This is a strategy that allows Russia to punch above its strategic weight, especially since Trump has chosen to abdicate the United States’ natural role in opposition.
How deep is this transformation of America’s global self-conception? I suspect (and social science seems to indicate) that most foreign policy views of the public are shallowly held and that leaders play a disproportionate role in legitimizing or delegitimizing opinions on things such as trade, foreign aid and Russia. So 49 percent of Republicans now identify Russia as an ally or friend, taking their political signal from the head of their party. But this cognitive conformity would probably work in the other direction with a more traditional Republican leader.