Via Samizdata, I came across this article by Michael Totten, who is more usually known for his superb reporting from the Middle East. The theme of the article is the supposed mutual admiration between Putin and Trump, and there has been lots of discussion recently regarding which of the two presidential candidates Russia prefers:
He’s not a Russian “Manchurian” candidate. He doesn’t take orders from Moscow, nor is Vlad bankrolling the Donald. There is no conspiracy here. There doesn’t need to be. Their interests and opinions align organically. Trump genuinely likes Putin, and the feeling is mutual.
Although it appears that Putin and his fellow Russians do prefer Trump over Hillary, I think most commentators have missed the point as to why. Everybody I have read has focussed on policies and which of the two would be more likely to oppose Russia’s interests and ambitions. Personally, I don’t think at this stage policies have much to do with it. I think it is all down to character and personality.
Russians actually don’t mind people opposing them. If you stand up to a Russian, they will on some level respect you and maybe even admire you. Russians still admire Margaret Thatcher, despite her being wholeheartedly against everything they stood for at the time, and they do so because she was strong and had political courage. Russians didn’t like George W. Bush much in terms of policies, but I always got the impression they had a sneaking admiration for his determination to actual do what he said he was going to.
What Russians absolutely detest is the sort of cowardly, half-hearted, and flip-flopping behaviour seen by pretty much every European politician and epitomised by Barack Obama: the weasel words over the shooting down of MH17, the capitulation to Iran over the captured US sailors, the backtracking over the “red lines” in Syria, and a multitude of other international and domestic issues which required somebody to have the courage to talk tough, make a decision, and follow through on it.
Russians are an old-fashioned lot and they have not bought into the PC niceties which the police are now enforcing in the west. They expect their male leaders to exhibit masculine behaviour and their females tough and uncompromising in their defence of Russian interests. Sometimes they take this too far and you get the ridiculous pictures of Putin fishing with his shirt off, etc. but underlying this is a genuine desire to see their country run by people with a set of balls. What Russians will never, ever respect is somebody who is lauded for being a brilliant intellectual but is photographed doing this:
And this picture may have captured the hearts of American women over 35 and the pajama boys, but I could imagine it being passed around the briefing room in the Kremlin to hoots of laughter:
To put it crudely, as most Russians would, they think Obama and his counterparts in Europe are a bunch of effeminate pussies. Regardless of their policies, I suspect most Russians who have fought (literally) their way to the top of the pile in the Kremlin can’t stand dealing with them simply because of their characters.
So when it comes to Trump, at a guess I would say Russians admire the man for standing up, speaking his mind, pissing everyone off, laughing at the PC-brigade trying to silence him, and having a wife worthy of any Russian oligarch. As for Hillary, they probably see her as a washed-up grandma riding on the coat-tails of a man who was shagging the interns behind her back. If you know Russians, it’s not hard to see why they might admire Trump more than Clinton. But I doubt it has anything to do with policies, not yet anyway.