Poor Vladimir Putin: left at the altar by America's president.
BuzzFeed reported Tuesday on a proposal the Russian leader made to the U.S. government just a couple of months after Donald Trump took office. The proposition was for a total reset and normalization of relations between the two countries, to begin immediately.
Maybe Putin thought Trump owed him one? Other Russian government officials seem to think so, and they are spitting mad he hasn't delivered.
It is not so surprising Russia would think Trump would be so receptive to this overture, considering all the nice things Trump said about Putin during the campaign. What a president says matters, and if a candidate keeps babbling on about how great it would be to have better relations with a country, of course its leaders will pay close attention.
No, what is so gob-smacking about the Russian proposal is that Putin and his government apparently really thought there would be no blowback from their alleged meddling in the election that put Trump in office:
Besides offering a snapshot of where the Kremlin wanted to move the bilateral relationship, the proposal reveals one of Moscow’s unspoken assumptions — that Trump wouldn’t share the lingering US anger over Moscow’s alleged interference in the 2016 election and might accept a lightning fast rapprochement.
“It just ignores everything that caused the relationship to deteriorate and pretends that the election interference and the Ukraine crisis never happened,” said Angela Stent, a former national intelligence officer on Russia during the George W. Bush administration who also reviewed the document.
It is not even that Trump has lingering anger over that interference. The issue is that much of Congress and the public is angry about it. That, combined with Trump's huge losing margin in the popular vote, has tainted his election with a patina of illegitimacy he has done nothing to try to abate.
Even if his administration was not completely incompetent at basic governance, he would not necessarily be able to get around that illegitimacy to do whatever he wants.
Of course it does not help his cause that Russian officials have gone from laughing denials to claiming on live TV they did in fact steal the election for Trump. Though that may just reflect Russian frustration now that they have discovered that as president, Trump does not have the power to unilaterally lift sanctions on them or hand back diplomatic compounds the Obama administration seized last year without kicking up a fuss.
Though to be fair, all of that was likely a surprise to Trump, as well.
More than anything, though, this proposal and the speed with which Russia delivered it and hoped to implement its plan indicate just how badly Russia misread American society and governance. They really seem to have bought into a vision of America where all the trappings of democracy — an independent legislature and judiciary, a free press — are just window dressing, while the real power brokers are behind the scenes or in the White House, making the trains run on time.
In other words, they bought into a vision of America that looks quite a bit like Russia. What hilarious irony.