One of the main sticking points between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during the presidential campaign was their differing position on Russia.
Despite Clinton's ridiculous tabula rasa in which she offered Russia a literal "reset" button, the former Secretary of State was well aware of Vladimir Putin's grand ambitions. Trump, on the other hand, is either ignorant of Putin's attempt to turn back the clock to 1980, or he simply doesn't care.
It should come as no surprise then, given how frequently Trump has praised the Russian president, that in the weeks following the election, the world leader with whom he's spoken the most is Vladimir Putin.
According to the Miami Herald, Trump has talked with Putin at least twice since his upset win on November 8:
"Russian news outlets reported Wednesday that Trump and Putin already are negotiating how Russia and the United States will act in the Middle East next year."
The Miami Herald quotes Putin: "The president-elect confirmed he is willing to normalize Russian-American relations...I told him the same."
Perhaps even more head-turning is the Wall Street Journal report that Donald Trump Jr. "held private discussions with diplomats, businessmen and politicians in Paris last month that focused in part on finding a way to cooperate with Russia to end the war in Syria, according to people who took part in the meetings."
Putin will do whatever it takes to advance his agenda, and if that includes faking a friendly relationship with the President of the United States, it will be done. President-elect Trump is a prolific manipulator, but he seldom seems to realize when he himself is being manipulated.
Vladimir Putin is a stunningly dangerous man. In the last several years alone, he has annexed Crimea, invaded parts of Ukraine, aided Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in murdering his own people, and is now assembling a nouveau KGB, called the Ministry of State Security (MGB), which will further consolidate his power into a singular, and very influential, agency.
ABC News reports:
"The reforms would restore most of the KGB’s functions to its successor service, the FSB, while also returning the foreign intelligence gathering to the same body...The result would be a single powerful security structure, sitting at the heart of the state's enforcement machinery, much as the KGB once did in the Soviet Union."
Perhaps Donald Trump is being underestimated, but if history is any indication, friendliness to an authoritarian regime, which has its tentacles spread widely across the world, does not end well.