MOSCOW – Donald Trump 's transition from US President-elect to taking power recalls nothing so much as a forgotten Hollywood genre: the paranoid melodrama. Perhaps the greatest film of this type, The Manchurian Candidate, concerns a communist plot to use the brainwashed son of a leading right-wing family to upend the American political system. Given the fondness that Trump and so many of his appointees seem to have for Russian President Vladimir Putin, life may be about to imitate – if not exceed – art.
To be sure, the attraction for Putin that Trump, Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson, and National Security Adviser General Michael Flynn share is not the result of brainwashing, unless you consider the love of money (and of the people who can funnel it to you) a form of brainwashing. Nonetheless, such Kremlinophilia is – to resurrect a word redolent of Cold War paranoia – decidedly un-American.
Consider the derision shown by Trump and his posse for CIA reports that Kremlin-directed hackers intervened in last month’s election to benefit Trump. In typical fashion, Trump let loose a barrage of tweets blasting the CIA as somehow under the thumb of his defeated opponent, Hillary Clinton. His nominee for Deputy Secretary of State, John Bolton, went even further, suggesting that the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, was a “false flag” operation designed to smear an innocent Kremlin.
The idea that a US president-elect would take the word of the Kremlin over that of CIA officials and even the most senior members of his own party is already bizarre and dangerous. But the simultaneous nomination of Tillerson – the long-time CEO of ExxonMobil, America’s most powerful energy company, which has tens of billions of dollars invested in Russia – to be America’s top diplomat takes this love affair with a major adversary to a level unprecedented in US history.