Catching up on BBC2’s latest documentary on Putin, The New Tsar, first shown last Friday, it struck me how alike he and Trump are. Neither has any principles beyond ‘making his country “great” again’, after recent humiliations – often at the hands of one another. Each seems to have an amoral Machiavellian approach to ‘power’, although in Trump’s case this is less cerebral than in Putin’s, and mainly instinctive, probably developed in him by his experience as a capitalist wheeler-dealer. And they both display huge personal vanity and enormous material greed. As well as all this, in both countries one can understand their appeal to ‘ordinary people’, their voters, who in these dangerous times want a ‘strong leader’ to take the burden of democratic responsibility off their shoulders for getting them out of the national mess they feel they are in.
Putin and Trump are made for each other. You can see why the latter fell for Putin. I imagine that Putin is just playing Trump along. For one difference between them is that Putin is immeasurably the cleverer of the two; which means that – if we subscribe to the ‘great man’ theory of history – he will probably win.