Throughout his campaign and beyond, Donald Trump has maintained what John Oliver has now dubbed a “weird, noticeably soft spot” for Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. In rallies and interviews, Trump continuously trots out variations of the question “Wouldn’t it be great if we actually got along with Russia?” And if your knowledge of Russian politics and Russian-American relations is limited to James Bond movies and FX’s The Americans, it might be easy to say “Well, yeah.” It would be great if we got along. Let’s all just get along, right?”
And yes, obviously, I assume most of us would agree that peace is better than any alternative, and that positive diplomatic relations are better than strained or aggressive ones. But in this case, Trump’s view is worrisome for a number of reasons, and that’s what Oliver tackles in the latest Last Week Tonight long segment deep-dive. What would it actually look like if we “got along” with Russia?
Even beyond the fact that he seems wholly unprepared to enter into any actual negotiations with Putin (embarrassingly illustrated in an interview with Bill O’Reilly–included in Oliver’s segment–in which Trump explains that his last resort in terms of diplomatic negotiations would be to tell Putin “don’t do that” in the voice you’d use on a spoiled child or a dog that peed on your shoe), Trump is quick to ignore any reasons why the U.S. might not be ready to call Putin its BFF.
As Oliver explains, Putin’s track record on human rights violations is extensive. Much of that record–namely, his role in the mysterious deaths of numerous journalists and activists–hasn’t been proven, but is generally believed to be true. Still, what we do know to be true is damning enough, like the harsh fines and prison sentences given to protesters, or the country’s extreme anti-gay legislation. And the way in which Trump dismisses all of this is beyond worrisome.
As Oliver so eloquently puts it, Trump dismisses all criticisms of Putin’s human rights violations as “You’re shit, we’re shit, everything’s shit. Never try for a better world, because it doesn’t exist.” Just a few weeks ago, Bill O’Reilly again asked Trump about his views of Russia, and said flat out “Putin is a killer.” To which Trump now famously responded, “You think our country’s so innocent?” And I don’t think that sinking to the level of “Well, the U.S. has lots of problems, so we can’t really judge someone who kills journalists” is what most of us think of as “getting along.” That’s not exactly the step toward world peace you’re probably hoping for.
Because when Trump says he wants us to get along with Russia, what it sounds like he means is that he wants permission for the United States to live down to the standards of Russia when it comes to human and civil rights. And as Oliver repeatedly states, it’s not like the United States doesn’t have a lot of problems, both domestic and internationally, that desperately need fixing. This is not an Us vs. Them, good vs. evil Cold War propaganda promotion. It’s about the idea that if left unchecked, Trump is in a position to sign over support to a slew of Putin’s demands (ending U.S. sanctions, recognizing his annexation of Crimea, etc.) that would all “be against Americans’ interests and values,” because he maybe legitimately doesn’t see the big differences between our two countries, and has come to value the vague notion of “getting along better” over literally anything else.
Make sure you watch the clip to the end to see Oliver’s last-ditch effort to get his message across to Trump in the only way he thinks might stick: “Shitty techno music.”
(image via YouTube)
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