bureaucracybusters

DICTATORS: A MUTUAL ADMIRATION SOCIETY

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 20, 2023 at 12:17 am

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have rightly gotten a lot of publicity—for how much they admire each other.

On the surface, this might seem surprising.  Putin spent most of his adult life as a fervent member of the Communist Party, which swore eternal warfare against capitalism.

After joining the KGB in 1975, he served as one of its officers for 16 years, eventually rising to the level of Lieutenant Colonel. In 1991, he retired to enter politics in his native St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad).

Vladimir Putin 17-11-2021 (cropped).jpg

Vladimir Putin

Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

This, in turn, brought him to the attention of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who groomed Putin as his successor. When Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned on December 31, 1999, Putin became Acting President.

In 2000, he was elected President in his own right, despite widespread accusations of vote-rigging. He won re-election in 2004, but could not run for a third term in 2008 because of constitutionally-mandated term limits.

So Putin ran his handpicked successor, Dimitry Medvedev, as president.  When Medvedev won, he appointed Putin as prime minister.

Of course, the man who actually called the shots in Russia was not Medvedev but Putin.

In 2012, Putin again ran for president and won.

Trump, on the other hand, is the personification of capitalistic excess. He has been an investor, real estate mogul, television personality as former host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” and alleged author.

The Trump Organization sponsored the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants.

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Donald Trump

He is notorious for stamping “Trump” on everything he acquires, most notably Trump Tower, a 58-story skyscraper at 725 Fifth Avenue in New York City.

On June 16, 2015, he declared himself a candidate for the Presidency in the 2016 election. Since July, he was consistently the front-runner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

So it came as a surprise to many in the United States when, on December 17, 2015, Putin described Trump as “a bright and talented person without any doubt,” and “an outstanding and talented personality.”

He summed up Trump as “the absolute leader of the presidential race.”

Trump, in turn, was quick to respond: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

Two months earlier, in October, Trump had said of Putin: “I think that I would probably get along with him very well.”

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump said: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia.”

The conservative host, Joe Scarborough, took exception to Trump’s praise for Putin: “Well, I mean, he’s also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

TRUMP: “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.”

SCARBOROUGH: “But again: He kills journalists that don’t agree with him.”

TRUMP: “Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe. You know. there’s a lot of stuff going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on and a lot of stupidity…”

Absolute dictators like Vladimir Putin and would-be dictators like Donald Trump often gravitate toward each other.  At least temporarily.

Adolf Hitler

On January 30, 1933, anti-Communist Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. For the next six years, the Nazi press hurled insults at its arch-enemy, the Soviet Union.

And the Soviet press hurled insults at Nazi Germany. 

Then, on August 23, 1939, Hitler’s foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, signed the Treaty of Non-aggression between Nazi Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R).

Signing for the Soviet Union was its own foreign minister, Vyachelsav Molotov.

The reason: Hitler planned to invade Poland on September 1. He needed to neutralize the military might of the U.S.S.R.  And only Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin could do that.

Democratic nations like France, Great Britain and the United States were stunned.

But there had long been a grudging respect between the two brutal dictators.

On June 30, 1934, Hitler had ordered a bloody purge throughout Germany. Privately, Stalin offered praise: “Hitler, what a great man! This is the way to deal with your political opponents.”

Joseph Stalin

Hitler was—privately—equally admiring of the series of purges Stalin inflicted on the Soviet Union. Even after he broke the non-aggression pact by invading the U.S.S.R. on June 22, 1941, he said:

“After the victory over Russia, it would be a good idea to get Stalin to run the country—with German oversight, of course.  He knows better than anyone how to handle the Russians.”

In April, 1945, as he waited for victorious Russian armies to reach his underground bunker, Hitler confided to Joseph Goebbels, his propaganda minister, his major regret:

He should have brutally purged the officer corps of the Wehrmacht, as Stalin had that of the Red Army. Stalin’s purges had cleaned “deadwood” from the Russian ranks, and a purge of the German army would have done the same.

For Adolf Hitler, the lesson was clear: “Afterward, you rue the fact that you’ve been so kind.”

It’s the sort of sentiment that dictators like Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump can appreciate.

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