By now, it’s well-known news that twice-impeached Donald Trump has been, of late, singing Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s praises. This is not fake news. It is not a distortion. We knew during his initial campaign, Trump was cozy to Russia, and we knew after the Helsinki summit the two autocrats had a “special” relationship.
But now, words have escaped Trump’s lips that are near treasonous, truly anti-democratic, vile, mean, inhumane and senseless. Referring to the buildup and prosecution of the genocidal Ukrainian invasion and destruction, Trump said of Dictator for Life Putin, “He’s pretty smart. He’s taking over a country for $2 worth of sanction – taken over a country, really a vast, vast location, a great piece of land with a lot of people – and just walking right in.”
That Putin was “wonderful,” “so smart,” and even “genius” to “declare a big portion of the Ukraine as “independent.” He claimed Putin will be a “peacekeeper” and sending in troops would be a “peacekeeping mission.” Topping it off, he declared Putin has the “strongest peace force I’ve ever seen, with more tanks than I’ve ever seen.”
And, despite the utter ignorance and offensiveness of his comments, nearly all in his MAGA Republican Party will not condemn or check Trump. Put freedom, rule of law, free and fair elections, support of NATO all aside – few Republicans will counter Trump with a full-throated rejection of Trump’s autocratic praises.
We are on the seventh day of Russia’s war against Ukraine. As Ukraine has stepped up and heroically defended its freedom, Putin has resorted to more lethal and indiscriminate weapons. Entire neighborhoods in large cities lay in rubble, looking more like post-war Syria than the stylish European cities they had been. Death tolls are mounting. Ukrainian refugees struggle to get to the Polish border. Millions are sheltering in bomb shelters, subways, shivering in burnt-out buildings. Water, food and supplies are dwindling. A human catastrophe unknown in Europe since World War II has unfolded.
Trump thinks Putin is brilliant. Let me put a human touch on Trump’s own “brilliance.” I have two friends in Russia and one in Ukraine who have written me during the war:
From Moscow: “I’m not holding on. My family, friends are under shelling both in Gorlovka and in Kyiv. They don’t get in touch. On the websites of the city, the addresses of bombed-out multi-story buildings are shown, and these are the addresses of my relatives. My friend, who lives in Cairo, is heartbroken because the house where her parents live is bombed and are both disabled. Their son has had no contact with either of them.”
“Yesterday, the whole city, the whole city, was bombed in the center of Gorlovka. My friend’s apartment there is now stone desert. In Kyiv my family can’t run because there is fighting over their house. I am happy that I was able to save my son from the conscription in the Russian Army, but I’m not sure I can now. I gave birth to a son not for this war, not for the ‘defense’ of the motherland. I am a woman and I do not want to sacrifice my child even for the sake of any of this. My son and his schoolmates don’t want it either. They just don’t have a choice. Soon women will be just a vessel for bearing warriors, not to give birth to a child for yourself to have someone to give tenderness and love.”
And from a screen grab from a young Russian soldier sent to Ukraine (Note, Russians were kept in the dark about deployments of their kids): “Mom, I’m in Ukraine. There’s a real war here. I’m scared. We f–k around on everything we’re doing, making mistakes, all in a row. We were told they would welcome us, but they set fire to our equipment and don’t let us pass. They call us fascists. Mom, it’s very hard for me.”
From a clothing shopkeeper in Odessa, Ukraine: “This has already been a blow to all cities. So, I don’t know what to do. Mariupol is on fire, Odessa got it, Kyiv today the offensive began at 4 a.m. I don’t know what to do. Ballistic missiles from the air. Well, today our people really got it. In Bucha near Kyiv, people jumped in the basements to save themselves. In the distance from my window there is a Ukrainian anti-aircraft gun that knocked down an air attack – the plane is visible from here. Many Russian soldiers are not even aware that they were going to war in Ukraine — especially the young ones. Russian news said everyone was sent to liberate from the Nazis, so many think they are going to help us! A lot of Russians are against this war, but they are no longer allowed to speak out. Russia is a completely totalitarian state. The last thing Ukraine wants is to be part of Putin’s nightmare country.”
And from an office manager in Moscow: “I want to address you directly in connection with the war started by the Russian government. Unfortunately, we are also part of our country and the part of our government – we protest the war in Ukraine, but more than 6,000 people were imprisoned in big cities, like Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk. Today, our attorney general also claimed that even speaking about the war with foreigners – or they call them, ‘enemies,’ will be viewed as treason and will be subject to sentences of up to 20 years in prison. I want you to know that we want to do the right thing, but we don’t have much power here… We are scared, we are devastated. I want you to know we are against war, we are against deaths of people, we are against deaths of Russians of Ukrainians, or any other people, we are against this craziness, and against genocide. I want… I hope for your understanding and support. Peace to us all.”
So, here’s my response to all the congressmen and senators who don’t have the backbone or common sense to censure Trump and boot him out of their party if not back to his adopted homeland, Mother Russia: If you don’t value American democracy. If you don’t value free and fair elections. If you don’t value free speech. If you want an autocratic leader who fashions himself more like Putin than Washington, here’s what you do:
Grab the next flight to Poland. Cross the border at Ukraine and hike past the burnt-out cities to Donbas and the Russian border. Fight your way across bombings and firefights and hitch a ride to Moscow for a chat with Putin about the virtues of his totalitarian government. If he doesn’t imprison you for life right then and there, make your way home and tell us why we would want to emulate anything Putin, and why Trump is so stable genius to praise him. And tell that to the tens of thousands, if not soon, hundreds of thousands, dead in Ukraine.
As one still-living Ukrainian reminds us, “The last thing Ukraine wants is to be part of Putin’s nightmare country.”
Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.