What is it Putin really wants? Some would argue he just wants Russia to be left alone within its sphere of influence (possibly including Ukraine and parts of the Baltics). Others believe he aims to return Russia to its place as a global superpower, and halt (or even reverse) the post-Cold War expansion of NATO.

Whatever he wants, he’ll find it easier to achieve if Europe and the United States actively distrust one another, and are sufficiently distracted by internal squabbles within the alliance and fractious domestic politics at home. From that perspective, the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States seems to have been a gift. But has Putin been taking advantage of a wider situation, or has he had a hand in creating the chaos himself?

This, of course, is the subject of an ongoing high-profile investigation in America. In January 2017, the US intelligence community published a report asserting that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered operations aimed at disrupting and sabotaging the 2016 US presidential elections. Was his aim to drive a wedge between the US and Europe?

We had a comment sent in from Laker, who believes that the Western alliance is already fracturing under internal divisions. So, has Vladimir Putin succeeded?

To get a response, we spoke to James Kirchick is an American reporter, foreign correspondent, columnist, and author of The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age. Here’s what he had to say:

I think it’s too early to tell. In some regards, we’ve seen the Europeans come closer together in response to the American election and in response to Donald Trump, who’s the most anti-European president the United States has ever had; who has no respect nor understanding of the transatlantic alliance; who is the most pro-Russian president the United States has ever had. I think these are the reasons why Putin wanted him to win.

I also believe that there’s been a realisation on the part of many European governments that they do need to wake up to the threat of Russia, hybrid warfare, propaganda and disinformation. I also think that, here in the United States, despite what the President has said in his public statements, Trump has not had much impact on the policies of the administration being carried out by other elements of the federal bureaucracy – such as the Defense Department, the State Department, or the US Congress, which has just passed major sanctions on Russia. It’s been difficult for Trump, single-handed, to change US policy on these fundamental questions. The United States is not going to pull out of NATO, and we’ve seen Montenegro just join NATO. So, I think it’s too early to tell, but I do think the transatlantic relationship is certainly at risk.

Next up, we had a comment from Daniel, who believes it doesn’t really matter that Trump is a pro-Russian US President, he has been unable to improve relations with Russia because Congress and the media are tying his hands. In that sense, has Putin’s support for Trump backfired spectacularly? Are the forces lined up against Moscow now even more united because of Russian meddling?

I think you have to understand the real reason why the Russians supported Trump was not for the immediate effects on sanctions policy, on Ukraine, on US foreign policy, or on any of these sort of individual issues. I think the main reason Putin wanted Trump to win was to disrupt US domestic politics…

In the United States right now we have political tension the like of which I haven’t seen in my lifetime. We have political division, and people living in different silos. Trump is the most divisive American president we’ve had in a generation, and he is radicalising the population; he is radicalising the Left opposition, and he’s radicalising the Right. I think this is the reason why the Russian’s wanted Trump to win.

It was primarily to weaken America domestically, to have us fight each other domestically so that we’re not a united people and we don’t have a coherent foreign policy in the world. You’ve heard people, like Jim Mattis, who’s the Secretary of Defense. He was asked recently what is the greatest threat to America’s national security, and he said it wasn’t North Korea or Russia. It was actually partisan division within the United States. I think Trump’s the perfect fomenter of this. This is why Russia wanted him to win. So, I think in that sense [Putin] has been incredibly successful.

Finally, we had a comment from Thomas suggesting that the success of Russian influence on European and US political process shows the weakness of our democracies, and it is more due to the fact that our political leaders cannot effectively counter Russian arguments. Is he right? How much of this is Putin creating a situation himself, and how much is it him exploiting already-existing divisions?

I think he raises a good point. I actually think it’s more the second. We obsess over Russian influence and meddling to our peril. If we think this is purely a problem created by the Russians, then we’re going to fail, because all of these issues are inherent to our societies. We own them. These are our problems. It’s merely that Russia is exploiting them and looking at cleavages within society and making them worse. So, [Russia] is more of an intensifier than the cause of the problem.

If you’re interested in the issues raised by this debate, you can also take part in Debating Security Plus, a global online brainstorm organised by our partner think-tank, Friends of Europe. Debating Security Plus will bring together senior international participants from the military, government and multilateral institutions along with voices from NGOs and civil society, business and industry, the media, think tanks and academia. Register here to take part!

Has Putin succeeded in splitting the Western alliance? Or are we too obsessed with “Russian meddling”? Is Moscow simply exploiting existing tensions and divisions? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Mike Maguire



158 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Andrea Brown

    Worse, money is going to both far right and far left from various sources in USA, Russia and Saudi Arabia, which is also starting to form splits internally in some European countries. Europe needs to stand as one and cut of the money and propaganda from USA, Russia and Saudi Arabia, once and for all.

    • Wojciech Małecki

      As long as Germany is disarmed, partitiond and pays reparations for Poland it’s a good idea.

    • Wojciech Małecki

      As long as Germany is disarmed, partitioned and pays reparations for Poland it’s a good idea.

  2. Jason Picci

    No, it is the perpetual war-loving western debt mongers that are failing to keep Eurasia from uniting (Stratfor’s ultimate goal).

    • Agus Peperina

      Tamara Jegorov ABOLISH MONARCHY!!!

    • Cãlin Rednic

      Viva il popolo…? Si. Perche sono gente come altri, pero su questo sogetto leggere un italiano scrivendo “Viva Russia” é come sentire una delle vittime di un abuso che lei non e stata abusata d’abbastanza…

  3. Enric Mestres Girbal

    The Western Alliance is obsolet because times have changed and our enemy is not Russia. On the contrary, the EU alliance with USA cause more problems then benefits.

    • Tamara Jegorov

      “times have changed”?! Where is the change? Communists are still on power in Russia.

    • Enric Mestres Girbal

      Russia is not the URSS and the times have changed. Thanks to the proUSA policy the EU is losing milions in exports to Russia….but the politicians don’t care if their industry and agriculture can’t sell and go bankrup….they keep their high wages anyway.

    • Arthur Gustin

      How you fucking idiot ? They don’t have any lever on the military policies and the alliance :D

  4. Tarquin Farquhar

    Yes, but he had a lot of help from wanton and reckless Germany and France!

  5. Craig Willy

    I think rather Cold War 2.0 hasn’t really taken off because:
    1) US/EU, unlike Russia, have no vital interest in eastern Ukraine.
    2) US/EU (their peoples, not their neoconned elites) have no reason to promote civil war in Syria, destabilize the Middle East, and thus impose another wave of “migrants” on Western Europe.

    So, there just isn’t any reason for conflict with Moscow, except for the efforts of the entrenched, war-mongering National Security State, Military-Industrial Complex, and Israel Lobby. The peoples have no interest in this. Furthermore, Western elites also have countervailing economic interests to *not* escalate conflict with Russia too much ($€). Hence the globalist Macron’s surprisingly very reasonable statements on Syria and Russia..

    All of the “Russia conspiracy theories” being promoted by the Western media are very amusing and show their shock and need to find a scapegoat for their weakening grip on power.

    In an ideal world, America, Europe, and Russia would of course be allies, so as to offset the effects of our very real decline. Instead, as in the Twentieth Century, our elites are choosing to *again* divide the European world through internal conflict, to the benefit only to the rising non-European world and a few profiteers.

  6. Apostolos Garoufos

    I agree with the fact that the transatlantic relationship is certainly at risk. On the one hand America has a lot of problems but, on the other hand, I believe that all of these “Russia conspiracy theories” are fake… Let’s see…

  7. Christofer Catilan

    I can only cite: “No, Brussels has.” Putin is completely innocent while EU elite in Brussel is the real evildoer in that sense.

  8. Jason Picci

    Russia may not be the ultimate goal, but the main piece of a complex puzzle that takes down China. The real threat to the UK-US banking domination of the world is anything that undermines the Bretton Woods protocol what established the US dollar as the trade settlement currency and gives the US the ability to print money without inflation, and giving it to banks for free. Other countries must buy dollars to trade between countries. NSR and OBOR puts that domination at risk. The US got spoiled by being able to build an economy by just dealing money and not having to add value or make things. It was easier to trade in money than build things. Besides, trading only money, that was free, it cut out the pesky expense of paying labor to make things. That is the long term threat the US sees
    Everyone says invasions are for oil and resources but that really is not the case in the last 20 years, it has to eliminate leaders or whole economies which bucked the dollar trade settlement. Libya, Afghanistan , Iraq, Syria and Russia, just as examples. The New Silk Road does not intend to use the Dollar. That is the real threat.
    Get a map out of the One Belt One Road countries from Asia to Europe and Middle East, and put pins in the all the counties the US has been doing regime change or bombed into the stone age and they represent all essential points to block the Eurasia trade routes. Why beefing up the war in Afghanistan suddenly when it was on low simmer for a long time. Look where US bases there could prevent from accessing trade. We are re-invading Afghanistan because of the ability to choke off larger portions of the NSR. The number of troops added there is a tell tale sign, it is not enough for any war, but is enough to block trade. If we (West) still had industries and production, this would not be needed. If we still needed labor for manufacturing, 1/2 the country would not be entering poverty. (Stan Jacox para-quote)

  9. José Bessa da Silva

    No, EU was the one doing that job. While atlanticist countries, like the UK, Portugal, Ireland, Denmark, etc, were able to oppose to continentalist countries like Germany, Spain, France or Italy things were going fine. Brexit was a blow in this balance and that is why atlanticist countries will eventually have no other choice other than follow the UK. Controled by continentalists, the EU will be an ever more corrupt, imperialistic and undemocratic institution…

  10. Altin Kafeja

    After 25 years od capitalism and a still poor Albania and being treated as a second class Citizen in the early European Comunity tto become without its people choise to a European UNION i think that the Western have just shown to the simple people that this European Elite care more to start Wars against people which had Stabilised Countries as Gadafi of Assad just for the sake of Bunch of dollars more for their deep pockets. SO CAN SOMEONE TELL ME DO I HAVE TO FIGHT FOR THIS EUROPE WHICH HAVE SHOWN SO OFTEN THEIR MIDDLE FINGER TO ITS PEOPLE which left the Eadt Blok out of love for the so called West Values.I havent seen in 25 years of democratic albania not a single major employment project from europe.So for me I just dont care for Rusia or Putin which in thr end is bringing up its Nation on all fields l.God Bless USA as for this EU wr on the East are tired of.They cant say DO WHAT WE SAY AND DONT DO WHAT WE DO.

  11. Marco Bianchi

    Instead of blaming Putin, think about all the mistakes done by the European politicians! Looking for scapegoats it is the typical behavior of losers.

    • Gabi Zagst

      The perfect answer!!!! I agree completely!

  12. Tony Muñiz

    No, the EU has done that for him by meddling in Ukraine and the refugee crisis and meddling in the middle east, to cause a refugee crisis..

  13. Ginster Plantagenet

    The Europe has peace since 70 years. As long as France and Germany are convinced this peace must last, we will have peace. Putin can try as much as he likes, but the Eastern countries will not want him, so they stick to the Nato unfortunatly take the EU money but are deconstructive with the EU. he EU must definitely be reformed and it will be easier when the Brexiteers are out.

    • Deividas Šikarskas

      Eu is fucked by merchel with all the terrorists and economic migrants fooding in

    • Deividas Šikarskas

      Russia is safer than eu they dont let in muslims … they aren’t so braindead

  14. Stefano Piccini

    E’ semplice: vuole ricreare l’URSS e prendere il posto dell’America sull’Europa…….farci diventare paesi satelliti dell’URSS………

  15. Angele

    I agree, that far not all the problems are because of Russia, not the Brexit, and not Trupm, but things get to the direction of pan-Eurasian integration, EU-China and Russia as Eastern partner of China. Austerities, definitely not the Russian thing, are major course of turbulent changes around the globe, and Russia profits from this, as it worse to do so.

  16. Patrick Dietrich

    He is playing with that Dickhead named Trump You see here that Putin is in politics very intelligent and that says enough over the bad situation insite the USA so long this 4 years are not done it will be like this.The only thing that Trump does is build the democratic party stronger with his play.

  17. Salvatore Midulla

    Atlantic alliance is anachronistic. Eurasia is the future.. and the USA know it.. that’s why are so aggressive around the world

    • Fernando Leite Velho

      From Lisbon to Vladivostock was the Putin proposition to a new economic space, the USA block it.

    • Mirosław Koziarski

      Only Asia – and not “ecomomic”, but only space – Space from Lisbon to Vladivostock.

    • Bruno Just

      Up to the Urals, anyway.

  18. Larth Svolshenna

    U.s.a. nd U.k. are a tricky landlord to deal with. Their rulerz deserve life jail: crimes against humanity
    Of course since they call home their fleetz, … forever

  19. Marrs Lisa

    All this chit chat and not a shred of evidence, I’m bored of this rubbish!

  20. Bruno Just

    Blaming Putin for Trump’s win is the biggest cover-up of how and why Trump won. Trump is a diversion to keep people from the real tragedy of the few mega rich families, corporate monopolies’ CEOs and Deep State blocking America from turning to Bernie Sanders and European socialism.

    • Kwai Chai

      You hit the nail on the head.

  21. Zap Van Der Berg

    I think that the third comment is the right one, these problems are inherent to our societies, i believe in the breaking of the transatlantic alliance, the disolution of NATO in favor of a european defence force but i think these things would strengthen the “West” rather than weaken it, right now the west is undeniably in decline and Asia, Africa and to a lesser extent Latin America are on the rise, i believe the key to this decline is the weakness of the European Union and the US and these issues are directly related, the problem with the US-EU partnership is the same problem the EU would have right now if Russia joined, the US is too overpowering, i think the election of trump has also opened the eyes of the world to a big problem: the fact that the US has been the primary world power since ww2 and a lesser extent since the disolution of the Soviet Union has made it incredibly arrogant, and degenerate, obesity, promiscuity, etc . the list is endless and this is in my opinion partly because the US does not have the cultural and moral background of Europe, it has always been a place convicted people go to start a new life, where organizations like the mormons which are rejected elsewhere go, the land of oportunities, has unfortunatly also been the land of opportunities for the evil and the wicked, this mentality of nationality and being superior to the rest of the world (similar to Nazi germany before WW2) combined with its military and economic assets makes the US incredibly unstable and dangerous to global peace, as it is a country which owes its economic succes largely to conflict and this is something inherent in US society, on the other side of the Ocean, the EU finds itself in a crucial spot, up untill now because of its weakening after world war 2 and the pressure of the cold war it has had no choice but to follow the US and this has been good in the sense that the US has taken over many foreign policy, military and economic roles that where usually done by the individual European countries, but at the beggining of this new century, the 21st century, the EU must make a choice, either it stays with the US and remains part of the increasingly Isolates concept of west, dominated by US decisions, or it cuts itself lose, and stands on its own 2 feet, this is a harsh action, which wont be easy and will bring many dangers, and in the beggining it may indeed seem the “west” is falling, the russians are having what they want, etc… But if this first period can be overcome and the European Union unite more and centralize, gain its own military and economic capabilities independent of the US, suddenly instead of the US and its NATO servants you have two superpowers representing theWest, the US and canada, australia, britan, and the EU, and this will be much more powerful, and frankly, because of european culture, much more competent, the problem with the US relationship is that it holds the EU back, member states feel they dont need to spend militarily or act in world security issues like the middle east because NATO (90% US) is handling things, so i hope the break intensifies, to those afraid of russia i call bullshit, we live in the nuclear age and there is 0 possibility of an offensive russian attack unless its military assets are threatened, like in sevastopol, i find it fustrating people act as if russia is the one taking the offensive when clearly the EU and the US have been provoking it by expanding NATO, etc… Russia has plenty of internal problems it needs to focus on and wants nothing more than peace so it can conduct events like next years FIFA world cup which will improve its internal culture and boost and diversify its economy… The real threat to the west long term is not russia but China, India, the middle east and a surging Africa, and to face them we need a strong EU capable of acting independently from the US and even of opposing it openly if it does something stupid, thats my opinion, Long live the EU! I hope for an European Defence force with greater military capabilities than the US, capable of acting under UN mandate in international conflicts like syria, integrated by people recruited from the military of all member states, i hope of an eastern europe better integrated in the EU with the same standards of living in rumania as in germany, that hungary is known for its art and culture and not for its prostitutes, and i believe with hard work and good will from France (vive la Force! Vive la France) Germany, Italy, Spain, Benelux and Scandinavia this is possible

  22. Wim Baerken

    Wow, this forum is crowded with fake accounts and fake news from.the propaganda machine of Putin. The office in St Petersburg where hundreds have a daily job 24/7 with creating false accounts and fake news to infiltrate the Internet and try to influance public opinion in Europe and the US. This forum is fake…

    • Pål Eggen

      They are marching in Europe too.

  23. Siva Nesan Jesu

    Online he is said to be conservative from 1999. Definitely he cannot support so called Western alliance or globalism. As a matter of fact Islamic world fears him.

  24. Ronny Wouters

    1.can you show me this report wich you are talking about that shows that Putin himself and hackers IN Russia infuenced the 2016 elections. 2.can you prove that the elections in the Krim were not democratic and that the people DID NOT vote for Russian annexation.3. Do you have any real facts wich you want to share with us. 4.i know why the media picks on Russia.

    • Max Berre

      Not sure who hasn’t gotten the memo yet, bu the US intelligence community published an official report on that months ago. The declassified version is available for anybody to download. There is no excuse for being ill-informed.

    • Ronny Wouters

      This report shows no facts, all it says is likely this, moderate that, perhaps this, maybe that. This Russian story is being played out for well over half a year now and Comey testified there was NO collusion between Trump and Putin. You talk about ill informed, there is no information in the report Max.

    • Ronny Wouters

      We were debating Europe, the author of the article suggests that being anti EU is being anti European, You have no idea what the EU is doing to their citizens by flooding them with millions of migrants, not suitable, unemployable people. We need a president like Trump and Putin who want no more regimechanges in the middle east that flood us with migrants, Europe is Burning right now, over a thousand people killed by terrorism , over a thousand women and girls raped dude. The only one who gets it is Trump, it seems that mostly US citizens are ill informed Max.

  25. Maia Alexandrova

    If your strength comes from the heart and the truth, you will be invincible. If it only comes from money and weapons, then you will be weak. This is all I can say.

  26. catherine benning

    Has Putin succeeded in splitting the Western alliance?

    This question is outright propaganda. Putin is not interested in the so called ‘Western alliance,’ one way or another. Russia is enough to take care of. It’s a big and diverse country.

    As a side bar, the only alliance the West has, is an alliance of the top money men, who are in it as winner takes all.

    Time the crap was cut and serious politics was the name of the game.

  27. Haitao

    Western countries always act like the saviour,in fact,they destroyed many countries in the name of liberty and democracy.

  28. Ivan Burrows

    No, Brussels has, Putin just benefited from the crazed lust to create a united states of Europe by a few EU lunatics.

  29. Zé Pires

    these is an rotten alliance, should have been terminated or rewritten several years ago

    • Paweł Kunio

      I guess it was perceived by many there was even those who oppose such right now. Big question is who caused it and Putin had minimal role in it. Failure of left, lefty politicians and lefty supporters did.

  30. Marko Martinović

    After new evidence it is clear that DNC and Hillary clinton colluded with Russia to stop Trump. Also URANIUM ONE deal which is far more dangerous. This is ignorant smear campain against Truml designed to protect real traitors… democrats. America cannot be defeated from outdide so radical groups are used to destroy it from inside… like antifa fascists, BLM and others

  31. Adam

    to be fair juncker macron and merkel are doing better job at it. putin is just useful foreign enemy at this point.

  32. George Frehden

    Pff ! ridicol! The alliance with west europe start splitting by west with american smile! Smart People! sic!

  33. Artis Lapsiņš

    Not really, Trump is not able to get anything done, he’s a bad investment and this little stunt will backfire once he’s removed from office due to impeachment or after 4 years.

    • Tony Muñiz

      Impeachment? On what grounds. And wait until next elections, if he runs, he will win. And I don’t even like the guy, nor did I vote for him.

    • Artis Lapsiņš

      Tony Muñiz If you haven’t noticed his election staff just got arrested, one guy carried a wire, rest will sing like birds to reduce the sentence. Most likely will be impeached on some tax fraud like his pals.

    • Jonas Ramaut

      Wasnt the investigation about Russians hacking the election? Whatever happened to that?

    • Artis Lapsiņš

      Jonas Ramaut who cares, they also got Al Capone for tax evasion. You got an issue with that? Aldo Clinton got impeached fir a different reason than the original inquiry.

  34. Vytautas Vėžys

    Unlimited immigrant flow – Putin to blame
    Oppression of local governments – Putin to blame
    Forcing member states to ignore will of their people – Putin to blame

    Most interesting thing that Putin just need to take cold beer, sit and relax watching how Europe will eat itself. He don’t need to lift a finger, EP will do everything itself…

    • David Isaksson

      yes of course everything Putin only needs to “relax” (and promoting tens of thousands hacker attacks, intervene in the American election, contributing to the populist far right movements like Front National and occupy Crimea).

    • Vytautas Vėžys

      David Isaksson Sure… Cause there is no possibility people could be blamed for their own actions… And most of what you said are rumors without evidence… So…

  35. La F Ham

    German unification was always going to sway the Union. Not out of any dislike towards Germany but a unified Germany put a castrated France in second fiddle and even with the passing of time, not all Europeans, especially those on the wealthier Western side, have felt at ease with The Germans steering the ship. And let’s face it, a united Germany has massively raked in the glory and profited from being the top dog in the order. So why would they want it to flop? The system has been good for them. Its the “free movement” of people which has created the skiff not because the shifting of human labour is bad but because of the fear it invokes in people. A post war apologetic Germany has dealt with this subject better than most but as time passes no one in the wealthier Northern states wants the German chancellor telling them how to behave. Individual States still think for themselves and while one would like to think that everyone is in the hunt for the deer if you can find a rabbit at least you’ll have a meal for yourself.

    • António Costa Macedo

      USA. Europe was obliged by the us to make sancions on Russia. Despicable wars makers

  36. Ibrahim Uzun

    Eu try to play game after games, syria Libya Ukraine Yugoslavia , Kosovo , with Turkey , than with Russia , Russia is not like any other nation to be on the table , so the Eu or the USA can play games with it,
    Personally I don’t like Russia but the true is there , Because Eu and USA has become the back garden of Israel , Eu and USA including Israel cannot play games anymore with Russia ,
    That’s why I would like to see always Russia strong as never before.

  37. Alex Tselentis

    LOL what a load of RUBBISH .. Balme yourself Europe, Europe is a laughing joke, its run by short sighted powerless idiots who couldnt run a hot dog stand properly, why is that Russias fault ?? Pathetic, for once take responsibility.

  38. Christine Harris

    No, nor does he want to. Any threats to the Alliance are brought about through political infighting and an inability to focus on the real adversarial challenges while pandering to special interests

  39. Γεώργιος Δανιηλίδης

    Warmonkering alliance is trying to use Putin (RUSSIA) as fake enemy to justify illegal projects that create huge super profits for their deep pockets.They are loosing the batlle because people are more clever than them

  40. Ruairí Hallissey

    The disloyalty and irreverence of our leaders has done more to drive people away from the center. Look at Merkel handled the migrant crisis. Putin cannot create faults. He can only exploit animosity which is already there.

  41. Μάρκος Κουντουρούδας

    Germany succeeded that…! Turned the “E.U.” to a “German Yard” tending to Lobotomize culturally all the other Peoples of member-states to their ‘German high-ethical standards and views”.

  42. István Simon

    Was not too hard: sooo many stupid leaders (who get position.. – well, not by their abilities

    At least they feel somethin goes wrong

  43. Carlos Branco

    from portugal to russia we all europeans. USA army occupation in europe need to end. usa go home

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