It’s been said a lot that, for all the supposed closeness between Russia and the new US administration, the Trump-Putin axis could soon turn into dangerous enmity. Strange friendships make fast feuds. And if Trump is a proper nationalist, if he is the thin-skinned narcissist that everybody says he is, he will react strongly against the widely held idea that he is some orange Kremlin patsy.
What then should we make of the departure of Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser? Flynn has resigned amid allegations that he misled Vice President Mike Pence as to the nature of some telephone calls in December with the Russian ambassador to the US. Flynn had assured Pence that these conversations had not touched on the sensitive matter of American sanctions against Russia. Such a discussion might have been illegal. Pence then assured the American people that Flynn had not compromised US interests or discussed sanctions. But then Flynn, possibly fearing Russian blackmail, changed his mind and said he couldn’t remember the exact conversations. Now he’s gone.
This abrupt departure suggests that the Trump administration is sensitive to accusations that it is working with Russia. It suggests also that it is alert — even paranoid about — Russian attempts to influence high-level American decision making. That in turn would suggest that Trump-Putin relations will be much colder than many assume.
Michael Flynn is a peculiar character and his departure may reflect that. He is a right-wing hawk, but of a strange sort: friendly to Russia while being savagely anti Russia’s ally Iran. Did the eagerness of the Trump administration to saber-rattle against Iran lead to the Kremlin blackmailing Flynn, if indeed he was blackmailed. Was he kompromatted? These are interesting questions that would make for the good basis of a spy novel. The answers may soon become clear. But for now, suffice to say that the idea of a new age of great Russo-American cooperation under Trump is flawed, to say the least.