Earlier this week, Rachel Maddow suggested that the Trump shutdown, which President Pelosi has finally ended, was masterminded by Putin. Maddow argues that given what Trump has already done to help Russia, from relaxing sanctions to weakening the NATO alliance to acting like Putin’s doormat in Helsinki, what else could Trump possibly do to please Putin? How about throwing the US government into chaos by shutting it down? Of course, Putin would like that, as it fits nicely into the age-old strategy of divide-and-rule or, as it is also called divide-and-conquer.
Compared to the US, Russia and Putin have much less power in the world. Just because someone doesn’t have as much power, it doesn’t mean they can’t conquer the more powerful. Since the Roman days (and likely earlier), rulers have been using the divide-and-rule strategy to weaken their enemy and conquer them. From Wikipedia:
The concept refers to a strategy that breaks up existing power structures, and especially prevents smaller power groups from linking up, causing rivalries and fomenting discord among the people.
Well, that sounds familiar. Trump has been trying to rip NATO apart since he got into office, and when he’s not doing that, he’s pissing off our allies around the world, from Canada to France to Germany. It is pretty clear that he has been “fomenting discord” at the international level, something that weakens the powers that might oppose Russia. By weakening and isolating the world powers, it provides an opportunity for Putin to seize greater control.
It’s clear that Trump himself use this same strategy to maintain his power. In that same Wikipedia article, it connects the divide-and-rule strategy to narcissism, which is very interesting:
A primary strategy the narcissist uses to assert control, particularly within his/her family, is to create divisions among individuals. This weakens and isolates them, making it easier for the narcissist to manipulate and dominate. Some are favoured, others are scapegoated.
This reads like something out of the Trump handbook on how to run an organization. By all accounts, the White House is in a constant state of chaos, which suits Trump, the narcissist-in-chief, just fine.
Since this Wikipedia article is illuminating, let’s examine a few more parts. It further describes the elements of the divide-and-rule technique:
aiding and promoting those who are willing to cooperate with the sovereign
This explains why Trump demands loyalty and regularly hires people who are willing to go on Fox News and praise him.
But here is the most interesting part of the Wikipedia article, the part that jumped out at me and made me start thinking that Putin wants the wall as much as Trump does:
encouraging meaningless expenditures that reduce the capability for political and military spending
Holy crap! If that isn’t the definition of building a ridiculously long wall along the southern border, I don’t know what is.
Clearly, Mexico was never going to pay for the wall, so to get it built will require the US to spend a lot of capital and energy. And while we are spending capital and energy on building a wall, what are we not doing? Spending more on the military. If the US government is spending millions building a wall while also running the largest debt in the world, surely this has to have an impact on military spending.
The federal government classifies spending into three categories: discretionary spending, mandatory spending, and interest on Federal debt. Military spending is the largest piece of the discretionary spending pie. I don’t know about you, but when my budget gets tight, I first start cutting from my discretionary spending budget, for example eating out less often, because I can’t cut the mandatory spending, like paying the rent. Spending on building a wall will compete with military spending from the US federal budget, and that is good news in Putin’s book.
Plus all the bickering and infighting we are currently doing and would escalate to a fever pitch if the construction of the wall actually started. The wall would dominate the mainstream media headlines and the political debates, sapping the political energy of the country. While we are distracted by internal debates, Putin could quietly annex another region like Crimea without the media noticing or the politicians caring.
The border wall, if it were to happen, is perfect for Putin and he probably wants it as badly as Trump–maybe even more. He doesn’t care about invading illegal immigrants and drug trafficking or any of the reason flaunted by the right-wingers like Ann Coulter. It’s just one more piece in his strategy to weaken the US and by doing so gain more power for himself. It’s a strategy that’s been used by conquerors throughout the ages. Putin is executing it perfectly, and we are the chumps.