While many attempt to debate who or what is in charge of the United States, the truth is that no single individual or even a single entity is in charge of the United States anymore.
This was true under Barack Obama, but Obama’s middle-management style of governing helped to hide this fact. Donald Trump who is a single-minded, straight talking and deeply opinionated man has by contrast, thrown a great deal of light onto the reality of just who governs the United States.
The truth is that in 2017, the textbook balance of power between the President, Congress and the judiciary no longer applies.
The reality is more of a combination of business oligarchs, foreign money, foreign lobbying groups tied to Israeli geo-political interests in some cases and Gulfi gold in others. Then there is the deep state including the intelligence agencies, military-industrial complex and its financial partners. Then there are random corrupt and criminal mafioso interests in the Beltway and a renegade mainstream media that ought to be classed as a super-rich NGO.
While this might sound unfamiliar to the ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ generation where everything in America was functional, the story will be very familiar to those who can remember the horrors of Russia between 1991 and 1999.
During the dark Yeltsin years, Russia had no real leadership. It instead had competing factions of local, national and super-national oligarchs and economic pirates, a governing class made up of both ageing traitors and young ambitious greedy individuals. Organised crime often held more sway among the alleged governing classes than ordinary people and foreign influence including and especially from the United States helped to sway the political process away from anything that could be remotely called democratic.
It is little wonder that at this time, Russia’s economic strength, military strength, international prestige and living standards all plummeted.
While America isn’t yet in economic doldrums which can be compared to 1990s Russia, other similarities are already present.
Nikki Haley, America’s Ambassador to the UN, is increasingly looking like Boris Berezovsky if he decided to dress up as a cocktail waitress. Like Berezovsky, Haley is conducting a kind of unilateral foreign policy interdependent of the official dictates of the States Department which in theory she is answerable too. While she threatens what amounts to military attacks on Russian and Iranian interests, the actual Secretary of State is nowhere to be found.
She’s clearly aiming to position herself as some new leader, perhaps a new President of the US. Will her hubris get the better of her as it did with Berezovsky? Only time will tell.
Within the White House, domestic policies seem to be a tug-of-war between Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. This reminds one a great deal of the war of policy war and ideological power struggle between Yegor Gaidar and Grigory Yavlinsky.
All the while, Paul Ryan is becoming something of an Anatoly Chubais character, trying to cling onto his neo-con Republican values in spite of a public which has clearly rejected them. Ryan may will become a major thorn in the side of the Trump agenda, just as the public hatred of Chubais ended up tarring what little dignity may have been left in the Yeltsin Presidency.
With some statements coming out of the US seemingly prepared for war against Syria and others, including from Defence Secretary Mattis saying the opposite, it is clear that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.
Making things worse, while Russia in the 1990s did have a stalwart opposition movement led on the left by Gennady Zyuganov and on the right by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, it is difficult to see if Tulsi Gabbard and Rand Paul will be able to weather the storm and remain prominent leaders of the real US opposition as Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky did. Indeed, Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky are among the only major political figures of the 1990s who are both still successful politicians.
The internal chaos in the United States which is matched by increasing social divisions, falling living standards and an out of control media is a lot like the situation in 1990s Russia.
The next time people hold a mirror up to Donald Trump, they should not see Vladimir Putin. In time they might see, Boris Yeltsin, a man who came to power on a sea of vodka-soaked promises, all of which were broken and broken ‘big league’.
Donald Trump can still save his administration if he holds fast to his principles and is willing to fight for them with both strength and tact. While Yeltsin never meant well, I personally feel that Trump does mean well. However, if he is consumed by the oligarchic swamp of Washington D.C., Donald Trump may end up having a similarly failed legacy as Russia’s giant failure, Boris Yeltsin.