.. One of the harder points to sort out, when President Donald Trump launches into a tirade, is whom his angry words are actually targeting, and why.
.. The trouble there started on Wednesday, with a breakfast at which Trump announced that Germany is now “totally controlled by Russia”—that it is a “captive” state.
This in itself was a wild claim, given that Trump’s only evidence of Germany’s subjugation was that Chancellor Angela Merkel was allowing Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, to construct a natural-gas pipeline to her nation. But it was an especially odd outburst in view of the context and the timing. Trump, after a stop in the United Kingdom, was headed to Helsinki for a summit with Vladimir Putin that will begin with a one-on-one meeting in which Trump will be unconstrained even by his own team. Last week, he described the agenda for that meeting, alarmingly, as “loose.”
.. Even more than with most subjects, when Trump brings up Russia he seems to be speaking of something that is defined less by reality than by what he needs or wants it to be at the moment. Indeed, almost every mention of Putin in the course of Trump’s trip was disorienting, as he skittered from saying that the Russian President was “nice to me” to warning that nato was selling itself into Russian slavery. So what was Trump really worked up about last week, when he spoke about enemies, allies, and Russia?
.. One possibility, as always with this President, is money. “They pay billions of dollars to Russia, and now we have to defend them against Russia?”
.. Trump, however, seems to reject the entire premise of a mutual defense, viewing nato as a kind of bizarro protection racket, in which the Mob boss hands out envelopes of cash to the shopkeepers.