"Trump and Putin Are on the Same Wavelength. It's a Mutual Admiration Society" – Jacob Weisberg
14 November, 2016

✅  U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump was critical throughout his campaign of America’s dominant role in defending NATO-member states in eastern Europe. The tycoon also voiced support for strengthening cooperation with Russia to defeat the so-called Islamic State, bringing at least a temporary sigh of relief for President Assad’s regime

✅  Trump’s foreign policy statements have often been confusing and conflicting. He also faces high-ranking opponents on defense and security issues within the Republican establishment.

✅  Jacob Weisberg is an American political journalist and the chairman of the Slate Group, which has Slate and The Root within its portfolio. He gives his thoughts on Trump’s foreign policy pledges, media coverage of the presidential campaign and the future of America under Trump’s leadership

“The foreign policies of U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump seem very much in tune with Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy.”  That analysis by Jacob Weisberg, a New York-based political journalist and chairman of online publisher The Slate Group, is a sobering reminder that the next four years could be a bumpy ride for Ukraine.

Since late 2013, the US has committed over $1 billion to Ukraine, through military and economic assistance, loan guarantees, humanitarian aid and funds to advance reforms and civil society. After Mr. Trump’s victory, both President Petro Poroshenko and the U.S Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch voiced optimism this support will continue. However, Mr. Trump has, in the past, hinted at scaling back the U.S.’ role in securing Eastern Europe and re-examining sanctions against dozens of individuals and companies for Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

“In fact, the one way he (Trump) asked to change the Republican platform was to remove the disapproval of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. So, strangely – and it sounds so strange to say it – he and Vladimir Putin are on the same wavelength. They have a mutual admiration society.”

Trump’s contradictory messages are not limited to just foreign policy. Mr. Weisberg says although the president-elect ran ‘as a tribune to the working class’, stocks in banks and industrial firms shot up the day he was elected as investors speculated on future tax cuts, higher spending on infrastructure and less regulation.

“It looks already like, as a billionaire, he is going to govern like an oligarch, in the interests of other billionaires, not in the interests of the working class. For non-Trump supporters, people are coming to terms with what it means now – how you can protest, how you can resist, what you can do. I think people are trying to move from a feeling of despair.”

Small anti-Trump protests across the U.S. break out daily. Meanwhile, an online petition demanding the country’s Electoral College choose Hillary Clinton has racked up several million submissions.

Mr. Weisberg also argues efforts are already being made to undo the damage caused by Trump. Examples include support for immigrants within communities, groups which promote race relations and support for women.

“I have a teenage daughter and her and her friends are already talking, since the election, about what are they going to do to be active, to get involved and I think the robustness of American civil society is a place that people can turn.”

As Trump victory sinks in for Americans, many analysts have turned their attention towards the media, especially their coverage of the outspoken Republican. In Mr. Weisberg’s opinion, much of the mainstream print media including the New York Times, Washington Post, Slate, The New Yorker and The Atlantic did ‘superb journalism’. He cites an investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia and Paul Manafort, once an advisor to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions. Mr. Weisberg argues though that cable news networks covered Trump excessively, while being too neutral and failing to check the facts, especially in the very beginning. There were also instances of ‘false equivalents’ - treating the two sides essentially as equal. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were far from that.  

“There was a great line a writer had that ‘Trump’s supporters take him seriously but not literally whereas a lot of people in the media take him literally but not seriously’. I think there’s truth to that. I think a lot of people who supported him, supported him, not thinking that he really was going to do a lot of the things he said. They didn’t necessarily think that he was going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it and deport all the illegal immigrants. They see that as theatre, as rhetoric, but at the same time, they expect him to govern on their behalf.”

Since Mr. Trump’s victory speech, some commentators have noted a more conciliatory tone. Yet, Jacob Weisberg argues this is unlikely to last for long.

“I don't think it's realistic to think he’s now going to be a changed person, that Donald Trump is going to become a statesman. Donald Trump is not a statesman. His presidency will look much more like the Berlusconi prime ministership.”

Hromadske’s Nataliya Gumenyuk interviewed Jacob Weisberg, an American political journalist and chairman of online publisher ‘The Slate Group’ in New York.