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This Whole ‘Donald Trump’ Thing Isn’t Working Out For Russia

To add insult to injury, the former KGB officer is getting a taste of Trump’s reality at home. Thousands of Russians in more than 80 cities are hitting the streets in protest against him and the corruption running rampant in the country. The protests’ organizer and top Putin critic, Alexei Navalny, was arrested in Moscow and sentenced to 15 days in jail.

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Of course, Putin is far more popular at home than Trump is here in the U.S. currently, but the irony of thousands of Russians rising up against Putin this weekend can’t be overlooked or understated.

When Russians waged anti-government protests in 2011 that lasted for nearly three years, Putin blamed former secretary of state Hillary Clinton for funding political opposition parties via American NGOs. Subsequently, this led to the Kremlin banning foreign NGOs he deemed “undesirable.” But, even more, those protests shook Putin so much that it is what many Russia observers, myself included, believe led him to orchestrate a hack into the DNC that helped sway the 2016 election to Trump’s favor.

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But Clinton is not in office, so Putin can’t blame her for the protests; Trump is in the Oval Office. And Russians, like, 60,000 of them, are still protesting Putin. Trump’s presidency wasn’t supposed to start out this way. At this point, Trump was supposed to aggressively push to lift sanctions. That hasn’t happened. His aides were supposed to be Russia doves. Many aren’t. Basically, as one expert told Vox, the stance towards Russia hasn’t changed:

“There has been very little interaction between the administration and Russia,” Ivo Daalder, former US ambassador to NATO and current president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, tells me. “There is no deviation from the line that existed prior to January 20.”

What Russia does have is a U.S. president who has no Russia policy, which for Putin is just as bad as having Clinton in the White House. To be sure, Clinton would have been a thorn in Putin’s backside (or, likely, much worse). But to have a someone in the Oval Office who does nothing to significantly reverse the policies of his predecessors is pretty much like overseeing a frozen conflict: Don’t make it worse, but don’t make it better. So far, that is exactly what is happening with Russia-U.S. relations.

That surely was not what Putin had in mind.

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