A Vote for Trump Is a Vote for Putin—and a World in Danger

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty

We are dramatically understating the threat Donald Trump and the MAGA movement pose to the security of the United States, Europe and the world.

It is time to move beyond the political spin offered by GOP propagandists and Internet trolls and acknowledge that Trump and the MAGA movement are today active assets of Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, as essential to Russia’s future global ambitions as that country’s own armed forces.

Trump Can’t Stop Comparing Himself to Alexei Navalny

It is time to remove from our analytical lexicon the terms that are commonly used to minimize the dangers associated with the Trump-MAGA-Putin alliance. After more than eight years of compiling evidence that demonstrates Russia’s efforts to co-opt the American right is perhaps the most successful intelligence operation of our time, we have to reject the transparent vocabulary of keyboard warriors that still cry “hoax” every time new and irrefutable evidence of GOP-Russia ties is presented.

In the past two weeks alone, there has been the evidence that the core of the GOP sham impeachment effort against President Biden turned on the testimony of a man with ties to Russian intelligence; Trump’s invitation to Putin to do “whatever the hell he wants” with Europe; the MAGA right’s decision to postpone further even considering aid to Ukraine; Tucker Carlson’s jaunt to Moscow to amplify the Kremlin’s lies about itself; the refusal of Trump to condemn the murder of Alexei Navalny in Russian prison; and the arrest of yet another American for no good reason in Russia.

It is time to reject terms that blur or weaken our sense of what is happening. Trump and House Speaker Mike Johnson are not “defending Russia.” They are not “Putin apologists.” They are actively attacking U.S. and allied interests and putting America and our friends in grave danger. They are not “dumb” or “naïve”; they know exactly the consequences of their actions. They have been repeatedly told their efforts to delay Ukraine aid could lead to Kyiv’s defeat, to the death of thousands of innocent Ukrainians and to the potential for further Russian aggression in Europe—and via their actions, their response seems to be, “Yes. That is what we want.”

This is not just the stuff of another political tussle between Democrats and Republicans, as Trump’s friends and major media outlets have presented it since Trump first called for Russia’s help with the 2016 elections. Far too much damage has already been done to America’s standing. Far too many lives have already been imperiled. It is time to face the reality that as of now, there is roughly a 50-50 possibility that the pro-Putin candidate will win our elections in November.

Our allies are terrified. They understand the stakes. A Trump win would not only certainly mean some form of Russian victory in Ukraine, it would also mean (according to former members of Trump’s own cabinet) America’s likely withdrawal from NATO. This in turn would set the stage for further Russian aggression in Europe. And that would be very likely to lead to a Europe-wide war. It might be worse; a Russian attack on Poland or the Baltics, could very well ultimately lead to World War III.

We know this is neither hysterical nor theoretical because of the evidence at hand. As we mark the second anniversary of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, we have witnessed not one but two stunning reversals. First, despite expectations that Ukraine would collapse under the force of the Russian onslaught, thanks to the extraordinary courage of the Ukrainian people and the resolve and leadership of President Biden and others, Ukraine not only held on but it inflicted extraordinary damage on Russia’s vaunted military. Perhaps 125,000 Russian soldiers have died and double that number have been injured. Half of Russia’s combat capability was destroyed. For pennies on each dollar of defense spending, the U.S. and others debilitated one of our most dangerous foes.

But in the past four months, as Biden administration requests for further aid to Ukraine have been blocked by Trump and Johnson, we have watched the war enter a new phase. Russia has been reinvigorated. Russia has made gains along multiple fronts. America’s allies have started to question whether we have the political will as a nation to lead and to join in our collective defense.

Putin now senses that he is a Trump victory in November away from a triumph in Ukraine, a vindication of his policies of brutality and aggression—and an era in which he will threaten the countries of Eastern and Central Europe with another period of Russian domination.

Even now, in the wake of the Navalny murder, following the obliteration of more Ukrainian cities like Avdiivka, understanding with absolute clarity what a monster Putin is, the Republicans in the U.S. House have continued to block the aid that is so essential to our interests—aid that would, in fact, largely go to U.S. cities, to create U.S. jobs creating weapons and ammunition for Ukraine.

Another crisis looms—a government shutdown—that may further distract Johnson and his minions from doing what patriotism would dictate they should. So, too, may threats from MAGA extremists like Marjorie Taylor Greene that she will seek Johnson’s removal from office if he even allows Ukraine aid to be considered by the whole house.

Putin, faltering in the face of Ukrainian resistance, found he made his greatest strides when his MAGA shock troops took Capitol Hill (with even greater success than they had the last time they tried to do so, on Trump’s behalf on January 6th). But as the Smirnov case reminds, Russian gains within and because of the GOP have been diverse and significant. They include coopting Congresspeople who have accepted Russian-linked aid (like Johnson), Trump’s plans to exit NATO, active support for other Putin allies like Viktor Orbán, weakening U.S. institutions, embrace of Putin’s ethno-nationalist ideology, the Russian infiltration of the NRA, pilgrimages by Trump-linked and GOP leaders to pay homage to Putin, and even a Russian-linked operative working atop the FBI’s counter-intelligence division.

The evidence of the efforts has been chronicled by bipartisan analyses in the Senate, during the Mueller investigation, by the intelligence community, even the Trump-orchestrated Durham investigation found “troubling contacts” between the Trump campaign and Russia. In fact, even if it weren’t for the evidence of our own eyes, this would and should have long ago been an open and shut case against MAGA and their Kremlin puppetmasters.

Stunningly, it has not sunk in yet with many of us. A domestic U.S. political movement is actively working with Vladimir Putin’s Russia to bring the world closer to world war than it has been in nearly eight decades, to destroy the international order that America an our allies sacrificed so much to build and maintain. Shockingly, despite the horrific toll of the last world war and the heroism of those who ultimately triumphed, fascism is on the march again—and this time it has a chance to succeed because of the serial betrayal of the United States by Donald Trump and members of his MAGA movement.

Imagine if a U.S. political party had worked through World War II to assist the Nazis and the Axis powers. That, without exaggeration and without a doubt, is precisely where we are today. If Trump somehow thinks Putin will take it easy on him because he has been his “friend” he does not understand Putin. Putin detests and takes advantage of weakness. He uses those he can use and disposes of them when they are done. And that is precisely why capitulation to him now is just as dangerous as it was to Hitler in the 1930s. MAGA efforts to “avoid” further confrontation with Russia today are highly likely to cost many many American lives in the not too distant future.

This is not hyperbole. This is a prelude to war that echoes the circumstances that led to the last two global conflicts.

Joe Biden is doing his best to resist it. His sanctions against Russia announced this week continue to show his resolve. But there are few sanctions he can impose that will outweigh the MAGA gift to Putin of further delays to aid to Ukraine. Biden can and should do more, including seizing Russian assets and using them to help defend and rebuild Ukraine and giving the Ukrainians more long range weapons and the latitude to use them.

But if the past offers any insight, Trump and MAGA will resist such steps.

As a result, make no mistake about it, world peace, the future of Europe and our security are on the ballot in November. The final word on Ukraine’s future, on NATO’s future, and on Putin’s future, will come from American voters. The choice is clear. A MAGA win will mark the end of the American century, of U.S. leadership and of relative global stability. The stake are high. The decision will rest with you.

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