SPOTLIGHT: ON PUPPETS AND PUTIN
There was a third politician on stage at last night's final U.S. presidential debate: Vladimir Putin.The two candidates have taken very different approaches to the prospect of dealing with the mercurial Russian leader, with Hillary Clinton painting Putin as an avowed enemy of American democracy and Donald Trump saying he'd like to buddy up with the man in the Kremlin. Perhaps the most pointed moment of the evening came when Clinton said that, if elected, Trump would be the Russian president's "puppet." Trump shot back, "You're the puppet." It made for good television, and no doubt brought a smile (amused? satisfied? sinister?) to the would-be puppet master's face this morning in Moscow.
In a piece he wrote for Die Welt two days before the debate, and translated by Worldcrunch, senior German journalist Richard Herzinger shares Clinton's worries about the Republican candidate. "Were he to be elected president, Donald Trump would be a perfect tool for Russia's plan to destabilize the West's leading liberal democracies. But even if he loses, Trump's disastrous election campaign alone has opened considerable rifts within American society that won't be easy to bridge," he warns.
Herzinger accuses "the Moscow-Damascus-Tehran axis" of committing "genocide" in Syria, and laments that "the governments and people of the West have yet to grasp the severity of the situation and realize what is really at stake in Syria. Not only morally speaking, but also in terms of global political consequences that a capitulation to Russia's politics of violence could mean."
Even if he seems to favor a hard line, Herzinger does not offer a specific recipe for how to restore the strength of American diplomacy without risking open conflict with Moscow. Clinton, debate "zingers" aside, doesn't either.
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