The leader of one of the world's oldest democracies does the bidding of a murderous and militaristic upstart dictator.
The dictator has an ulterior motive—he wants a chunk of a neighboring country. Anxious to avoid war at almost any cost, the democratic leader gives him what he wants. In private, the dictator ridicules him as a weakling.
History really doesn’t repeat itself. But in 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain let himself be duped by Adolf Hitler.
At the notorious Munich Conference, Hitler said that if he could have the industrial and mineral-rich Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia, he wouldn't grab any more territory. Chamberlain, and his ally, French premier Eduard Daladier, took him at his word and signed the notorious Munich agreement.
Hitler and Chamberlain weren’t bromance partners like Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump. But it looks as if Putin is using Trump just as Hitler used Chamberlain.
Hitler preyed on Chamberlain and Daladier's terror of a second world war. Just give me the Sudetenland, and there will peace, Hitler assured them.
Putin is evidently playing on Trump's fear, but of what? "My guess, and that's all it is at this point, is that Trump was aware of Russian entreaties to provide him with some electoral assistance and that he was led to believe it was being provided with Putin's blessing," said veteran Kentucky journalist Bill Straub.
"That sort of deal would certainly place him on Putin's side and would certainly lead him to oppose any sanctions directed at the Russian bear. But such speculation is why we have Robert Mueller."
Chamberlain evidently believed he could deal with Hitler. Trump apparently feels the same way about Putin. "What he fails to understand is that Putin is more savvy and evil than he is and that he sees an opportunity to use Trump," said Straub, a KentuckyForward.com and NKYTribune.com political columnist.
Neither Straub, nor Ken Wolf, a retired Murray State University historian, are sure what's behind the Trump-Putin relationship.
“Some folks think that Putin has something on Trump that would hurt Trump politically or financially,” Wolf said. “It's not unreasonable to think that in his previous life as a developer, Trump had some dealings with the Russian mob,” said Straub, a former Washington correspondent for the Kentucky Post and Cincinnati Post who was also a White House and political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service.
Added Wolf: “Both men are vain opportunists who truly care very little for the people and countries they lead. That might be a psychological bond, I suppose.”
Wolf said Chamberlain and Daladier wanted to spare their countries the horror of another world war. "Their motives were sincere," he explained.
If Trump could lead the U.S. in the same manner Putin leads Russia, without the constraints of the constitution, law and common decency, he would.
On the other hand, Trump is a fan of Putin's macho style and sees him as a role model, Straub said. "Trump admires those who meet his definitions of tough and strong, and Putin certainly meets that standard. In other words, if Trump could lead the U.S. in the same manner Putin leads Russia, without the constraints of the constitution, law and common decency, he would."
Anyway, Hitler was confident he could bully Chamberlain and Daladier. He got both leaders to come to him at Munich, one of the most pro-Nazi cities in Germany.
Chamberlain was vain and leaned toward narcissism, though not as steeply as Trump does. Hitler stoked Chamberlain’s ego, complimenting and wining and dining him. Chamberlain fell for the hospitality.
Chamberlain and, to a lesser extent, Daladier, went down in history as fools. In signing over the Sudetenland, they appeased a megalomaniac who started the bloodiest and most destructive war in history and whose brutal regime murdered six million Jews and countless other victims.
Trump is well on the way to establishing himself for posterity as Putin's puppet.
Meanwhile, Putin is up for "reelection" in March. He has already disqualified his only serious opponent. It could be argued that Trump's support for Putin has emboldened him and discouraged the opposition.
No doubt, if Trump stood up to Putin, the dictator's power would slip. He might even be deposed.
Hitler might have suffered such a fate had Chamberlain and Daladier stood by little Czechoslovakia in defense of the Sudetenland.
There is evidence that some German generals considered overthrowing Hitler if the British and French used force to thwart his Sudetenland takeover. When Chamberlain and Daladier knuckled under to Hitler, the coup, if there was one in the making, fell apart.
In any event, Hitler made fun of Chamberlain in private. “If ever that silly old man comes interfering again with his umbrella, I'll kick him downstairs and jump on his stomach in front of the photographers,” he supposedly said.
Another time, Hitler reportedly scoffed of the Munich conference, “Well, he [Chamberlain] seemed such a nice old gentleman, I thought I would give him my autograph as a souvenir.” He also reputedly called Chamberlain and Daladier “small worms.”
“Certainly, Putin must be making fun of Trump in private," Wolf said.