In 2016, Paul Krugman famously dubbed Donald Trump “the Siberian Candidate,” alleging “indications that Mr. Trump would, in office, actually follow a pro-Putin foreign policy, at the expense of America’s allies and her own self-interest.”
Subsequent to his election, Trump’s detractors insisted that Trump, either voluntarily or under blackmail, has been acting as the cat’s paw of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump has declined to criticize Putin publicly; has arguably undermined Euro-Atlantic solidarity by squabbling with America’s allies and labeling the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) obsolete; has seemed at times to accept Putin’s denials about Russian interference in U.S. elections, contradicting his own intelligence services; and has provided the Kremlin a windfall with his precipitous decision to pull U.S. ground forces out of Syria.
Trump’s unsuccessful business forays into Russia have been minutely examined for clues about his possible recruitment as a Russian agent, and his most suspiciously inclined critics have conjectured that Trump’s one-on-one meetings with Putin provide the venue for Trump to receive instructions from his Kremlin handler.
Such circumstantial evidence has been sufficient to convict Trump of treason in the court of liberal public opinion. Ominously, however, delirium Trumpens has blinded observers to a far more plausible and infinitely more destructive agent of Kremlin influence long active within the ranks of Western leaders.
The Migrant Crisis Was the Tipoff
In retrospect, the European Union migration crisis of 2015 should have been the tip-off. Faced with a crush of would-be immigrants clamoring for admission to Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel gamely chose to throw the doors open. Wir schaffen das! (“We can do this!”) was her battle cry.
The baleful consequences quickly became manifest. The million-plus immigrants constitute a long-term underclass that will take generations to assimilate, if they ever do. Terrorist attacks emanating from this particular group of “refugees” have created, along with incidents like the mass public harassment of women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve 2015-16, a widespread public perception of heightened danger.
The immigration question has given an enormous impetus to the populist unrest roiling much of the European Union. It has sown enmity between those EU countries reluctant to resettle immigrants, and those states that consider the concept of burden-sharing to apply primarily to migrants rather than defense spending.
Did no one foresee the far-reaching tragic results of Merkel’s decision? Or did someone perhaps understand exactly what would transpire? Were the events of 2015, in fact, an intelligence operation of breathtaking audacity, setting in motion an insidious time-bomb for Europe under cover of an ostensibly humanitarian gesture? One can visualize Putin grinning malevolently and muttering “Wir schaffen das!” with a very different das in mind.
European security provides another highly instructive indicator. Trump has been roundly criticized for denigrating NATO, and while it was an error to label the Euro-Atlantic alliance obsolete, Trump actually wasn’t far off the mark. The problem is not that the alliance is obsolete, but that its European military component has been allowed to grow obsolescent. No country is more responsible for this deplorable state of affairs than Merkel’s Germany.
Which Western leader, then, has done greater damage to NATO? The one who has honestly called out the alliance’s shortcomings and demanded a more responsible approach from European partners, or the one who has quietly, complacently allowed her military to slide into senescence? Need we ask Putin which policy he prefers?
Consider the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline
The overriding humanitarian impulse that opened the immigration floodgates in 2015 is curiously absent from Merkel’s policies toward Ukraine. Economically, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that Merkel champions is a scheme to divert several billion dollars annually from indigent, embattled Ukraine to a consortium of well-heeled European energy companies. Politically, Nord Stream 2 would lay the groundwork for wider Russian aggression against Ukraine by freeing Moscow to launch a military campaign without jeopardizing the vital revenue from Russian gas exports that currently transit Ukraine.
In short, Merkel appears determined to safeguard Russia’s hydrocarbon revenues and maximize European dependence on Russian gas while opening up a veritable second front against Ukraine. Several years ago, a senior politician from one of the Baltic States characterized Russian policy toward his region by quipping that “Molotov is looking for his Ribbentrop.” But perhaps Molotov has already found her?
Putin’s putative American stooge, by contrast, has repeatedly denounced Nord Stream 2, threatened sanctions against companies that participate in the project, and undercut Russian hydrocarbon revenues more broadly by spurring on U.S. energy production. Trump also ignored Merkel’s longstanding objections by providing lethal military assistance to Ukraine.
Moreover, in the Balkans, the Trump administration has endorsed the concept of a voluntary land swap between Serbia and Kosovo. Merkel has rejected the idea of a territorial swap, which, among other things, would seriously undercut Russian leverage in the Balkans. Coincidence?
If Meetings Are a Pretext, Merkel’s Got Those Too
If Trump’s few, brief unchaperoned encounters with Putin have generated speculation about the U.S. president receiving his marching orders from his Russian counterpart, then what are we to make of Merkel’s lengthier and more frequent têtes-à-têtes with the German-speaking Putin? One might well suspect that she needs additional face time with Putin in order to receive more fulsome and detailed instructions.
Trump has been condemned for his failure to criticize Putin publicly. By contrast, Merkel has denounced Putin as—well, come to think of it, what has she said about the man? Has she ever used expressions like “KGB thug,” “the Evil Kremlin Dwarf,” or any of the other terms of endearment for the Russian president currently popular in Western parlance? Not to my knowledge. Does this reticence not give rise to suspicion?
Astonishingly, no one seems to have looked into the possibility that Merkel was recruited as an agent by none other than Putin himself. It is no accident, as the saying goes, that Merkel hails from the former East Germany. That’s precisely where Putin earned his spurs as a KGB agent in the run-up to the fall of the Berlin Wall. No doubt a careful reconstruction of their movements in the fateful years from 1985-89 would identify multiple occasions when they were “coincidentally” together in the same city, and her recruitment by Putin can thereby be logically presumed.
Moreover, Merkel certainly knew people in East Germany who knew other people who in turn knew Putin. Identify these connections, and the strings binding the marionette to the puppet-master have been established. There is surely enough material here to keep a small army of special prosecutors and investigative journalists gainfully employed for many years. What are the reporters waiting for? Forget about Trump’s tax returns—has anyone seen Merkel’s Stasi file?
It’s the Perfect Cover, You Have to Admit
“Preposterous!” some might cry. “Angela Merkel is a pillar of the Liberal World Order, while Trump is a bumptious parvenu and an enemy of everything we hold dear!”
But that’s precisely the point! How else could Putin insinuate his super-agent into our midst and deftly elevate her to presumptive leadership of the Free World, except by having her embrace our values publicly while persistently destroying, with a quiet determination that draws no attention to itself, the very foundations of the West?
Think about it—raging discord in the EU, the functional debilitation of NATO, the undermining of Ukraine. Who would do such things, and why? And after all, whom would a master spy like Putin entrust with so delicate and fraught a mission—the swaggering, loud-mouthed Trump, or the discreet, tight-lipped Merkel?
Whom, indeed? If we would but allow the scales of prejudice to drop from our eyes, the answer is staring us in the face.