Vladimir Putin tried to help Donald Trump win the presidency. As president, Trump is helping Putin achieve a top strategic goal.
And the question is: Why?
That mystery deepened Friday when Trump, as he openly attacked U.S. allies while heading for meetings with them, called for Russia to be readmitted to the G-7 club of advanced industrial democracies. The U.S. and its allies ejected Russia after its 2014 seizure of Crimea.
With that concession, Trump capped a whirl of activity advancing Russia's objective of splintering the alliances undergirding the Western world's security and prosperity for the past 70 years. French President Emmanuel Macron, incensed by the trade conflicts Trump instigated, declared that G-7 partners gathered in Canada this weekend might cut out the U.S. for purposes of the summit communique.
This followed the president's earlier reluctance to embrace North Atlantic Treaty Organization commitments safeguarding Europe against Russia, his delay in implementing new congressional sanctions against Russia and his praise of Putin himself. Those actions, according to U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials, followed criminal interference by Russian operatives to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
The starkness of Trump's words — he stated no conditions for returning Russia to international favor on the same morning he impugned Canada's honesty — unsettled observers across the political spectrum.